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

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

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

Source: WH, 1-17-17

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:15 P.M. EST

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

Q    Thank you.  (Laughter.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, Josh, congratulations.  (Applause.)

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

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, sir.

Q    Before you go, respond to Vladimir Putin?

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

 

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

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

So, Josh, you want to get us started?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    Thanks, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Jeff.

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

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

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

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Olivier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul.

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

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michelle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    From whom?

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

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

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

Q    So it’s not true?

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

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

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

MR. EARNEST:  No, there was not.

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

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

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

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

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

Q    He could have had more press conferences —

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

April.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anita.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Margaret.

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

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

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

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

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

Q    You agree he was blunt?

MR. EARNEST:  I would.  I would.

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

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

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

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

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t speak to any of the conversations that our intelligence community has had with some of our closest allies.  I’ll let them describe those conversations.

The United States has worked hard to deepen our cooperation with the United Kingdom and the rest of our NATO allies for that matter, certainly as it relates to intelligence gathering.  Our ability to collect that intelligence and share it widely among our partners does make our alliance stronger.  And it makes our collective defense more effective.  But I can’t speak to any specific instructions or requests that the British intelligence services may have made to American intelligence services.

Q    And lastly, you said you wouldn’t characterize the readiness of the incoming administration. Secretary Kerry did publicly suggest that he was — the contact had been minimal with at least the incoming Secretary of State, should he be confirmed.  Would you say that the incoming administration has taken up the Obama administration in all of its offering to fully brief and fully read in the nominees?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Margaret, I think the thing that was evident to all of you in the earliest days of the transition is that the Trump administration had a pretty steep hill to climb with regard to their learning curve.  Is some of that related to the fact that they weren’t anticipating winning the election?  Probably.  But I think what we have seen over that time is conscientious, painstaking work on the part of the incoming administration to try to get up to speed.  And there has been substantial improvement in those efforts since the days immediately following the election.

I obviously can’t speak to all of the conversations across the federal government.  But it’s certainly fair for you to conclude that the capacity and capability of the incoming team has improved markedly since the first days after the election.

Jordan.

Q    Thanks, Josh, for the final time.  I wanted to ask you about a report in The Washington Post yesterday that said the President plans to make several hundred commutations before his final day.  Can you confirm that’s the plan?

MR. EARNEST:  I saw that report.  I don’t have any news to announce from here with regard to any commutations.  But if there are any clemency requests that are granted, we’ll make sure you’re among the first to hear about them.

Q    Yet last week you made an interesting argument about the differences between Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.  Can you at this point rule out that the President will give a pardon to Edward Snowden?

MR. EARNEST:  I can’t rule anything in or out.  I think the one thing that the Department of Justice has said — I’m looking at Brandi, and she’s giving me the poker face.  (Laughter.)  I believe what the Department of Justice has said is that — there you go.  What they have said and what Brandi has told me is that — (laughter) — Mr. Snowden has not filed paperwork to seek clemency from the administration.  But I don’t have any specific comments about whether or not that would impact any sort of presidential-level decision.

Sarah.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  On the note of pardons, the administration has been very proud of its ethical record.  And as we’ve seen in the past, some of these last-minute pardons can kind of trip some people up.  And so will — the clemency initiative, there’s sort of a structure for those.  But with the pardons, will the President issue all his pardons at a point where we’re still able to ask for an explanation about them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I would say is simply that we’re aware of the history that you’ve alluded to.  The President has been judicious about using this authority in a way that he believes is consistent with American interests and the pursuit of justice.  And if we feel it is ever necessary for us to make that case, we’ll want to make sure that we have ample opportunity to make it.

I think I’ll leave it there.

Q    And can you just offer any more details about the President’s last day, his last hours in office?  Will he still get the presidential daily briefing?  Can you tell us who specifically is actually going to be showing up here on the 20th?

MR. EARNEST:  You mean in terms of staff?

Q    Yes.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have that in front of me, but we will provide you with some contact information for the morning of the 20th should you need it.

Q    I’m just mean in terms of what he’s doing.  Like is Chief of Staff McDonough going to be here?  NSC Advisor?

MR. EARNEST:  We’ll work to see if we can compile some of those details.  I don’t have a lot of detailed information about that right now, but we’ll see if can get you something in advance of Friday.

Kevin.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  And despite our differences, thank you for being fair.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Kevin.  I appreciate that.

Q    And your staff is great, too, as well.

MR. EARNEST:  I appreciate it.

Q    Regardless of the clemency issue, is it fair to say that the process is still ongoing at this stage?  The review, is that still happening even today?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, this is a process that largely lives at the Department of Justice, and they’ve been very focused on this important work.  They’re working closely with the President’s attorneys here in the White House.  And, yes, it is fair to say that that work continues.

Q    I want to ask specifically about Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, in particular.  As it relates to Chelsea Manning, does the White House agree that Manning is being subjected to unfair treatment by the Army amid her daily fight to have her right to be identified as a woman?  Does the White House agree with that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not aware that the Commander-in-Chief has weighed in on this.  This is obviously complicated by the fact that Chelsea Manning is in the military criminal justice process and, of course, the Commander-in-Chief is at the top of the chain of command, which limits our ability to discuss her case in all that much detail.  But I’ll look and see if we have ever weighed on this specific question.  I know that it certainly is a question and a concern that’s been raised by some of Chelsea Manning’s advocates.

Q    And for the record, she was sentenced to 35 years.  Does the White House believe that that was a just sentence?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard the President weigh in on that either, again for the same kind of chain-of-command reasons that I just cited.

Q    But he may tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if he chooses to — you and Jordan will be among the first to know.  (Laughter.)

Q    Fair enough.  Jordan, I got first dibs.  (Laughter.)  Let me ask you about Edward Snowden.  Does his offer to turn himself in if Manning is, in fact, offered clemency weigh at all in the consideration for how the President might consider a pardon for Manning, or even for Snowden, do you think?

MR. EARNEST:  It does not, primarily because we believe that under any circumstances, Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the serious crimes with which he’s been charged.  He will, of course, be afforded the kind of due process that’s available to every American citizen who’s going through the criminal justice process.  But the crimes that he’s accused of committing are serious, and we believe that he should return to the United States and face them rather than seeking refuge in the arms of an adversary of the United States that has their own strategic interests in disseminating harmful — or disseminating information in a harmful way.

Q    So for clarity’s sake, it seems apparent that there’s little doubt that Edward Snowden will not be offered a pardon by this President.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not something that — I can’t rule out any offer of clemency, or rule it in, frankly, from here.

Q    Based on what you just said, though — I mean, the President has been pretty clear, he hasn’t availed himself to even a conversation about prosecution or facing the charges that he may in fact be forced to face were he even here.  So based on that, it seems clear he’s not going to get a pardon, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve heard me note that that is one of the many differences between Mr. Snowden’s case and Chelsea Manning’s case.  But I can’t rule anything in or out at this point.

Q    Last one.  I want to ask you about Julian Assange.  Did the White House ask Britain or even Ecuador, perhaps, to take action against Julian Assange and/or shut down WikiLeaks at any point?  Did that come from this White House?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific request like that that was made.  You know that the U.S. intelligence community, and even the President, have expressed some deep concerns about the ties between Russian intelligence and WikiLeaks and other organizations like it that were created to disseminate either classified information or previously private information.  And we know that much of those efforts to disseminate that information was rooted in a Republican — Russian strategy to undermine confidence in American democracy.

So we have profound concerns about the way that that organization, WikiLeaks, has operated, and we have expressed profound concerns about the way that some of the things that they have done and some of the information that they have released has harmed our national security, has put our military and our intelligence officers in harm’s way and made their dangerous work even more dangerous.  But I can’t speak to any specific requests that may have been made of the Brits or the Ecuadoreans.

Ron.

Q    Just to follow up on this — the appointments of Valerie Jarrett, Susan Rice and others to these boards.  Are these appointments that cannot be reversed by the President — the incoming President?  And were they made for that reason or with that in mind?

MR. EARNEST:  They weren’t made with that in mind.  I believe that these are the — that the appointments on these kinds of boards are part of the President’s executive authority and part of his responsibility.  And he chose to fill a couple of those positions with two of his most trusted aides.

Q    So they’re probably — are there terms?  Are there — I guess it would vary depending upon the —

MR. EARNEST:  There are terms, but we can get you the details.

Q    There’s also — there’s an education regulation that’s making its way — I believe it’s before the White House Budget Office.  You’re looking at me like you don’t know what I’m talking about.

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I do.

Q    It’s a regulation that would essentially change the funding mechanism within school districts and apportion more money to lower-income areas as compared to higher-income areas.  The question is where is that, is it going to make it, so on and so forth.

MR. EARNEST:  Let me have my colleagues at the Office of Management and Budget circle back with you to give you an update on where that stands.

Q    And just a last thing — can you give us any indication of what the President is really doing and focused on these last number of days?  I know you were asked about staffing and all that, but —

MR. EARNEST:  Other than saying really nice things about me — (laughter) — which I deeply appreciate, by the way?.

Q    It’s a — I mean, I know he’s concerned about national security, I know he’s concerned about the transition.  But just — I just wonder, what do you do when you have, like, a few days left after all this?

MR. EARNEST:  There’s a lot to be done.  Let me tell you at least one thing.  This morning, the President assembled senior members of his counterterrorism and homeland security team to review ongoing security planning for the 58th inauguration.  The President commended the comprehensive preparations across the law enforcement and intelligence community, and directed that all agencies maintain their high state of vigilance to ensure we are best postured to protect the homeland against individuals radicalized to violence.

The President was also briefed on counterterrorism operations in Iraq and Syria that are putting simultaneous pressure on ISIL inside Mosul and around Raqqa.  Over the weekend, as you may know, Iraqi security forces made significant gains in Mosul as ISIL defenses are collapsing in key parts of the city.  And in northern Syria, local partners continue to constrict ISIL’s movement in the vicinity of Raqqa.

The President noted the impact our strategy is having on the ground is the result of a deliberate effort to accelerate our campaign against ISIL, and that the coalition is well-postured to put ISIL on a path to lasting defeat.

I think the fact that the President held this meeting today is an indication that the President continues to be focused first and foremost on the safety and security of the United States and the American people.  And this is consistent with the kind of briefing that he has held with his national security team and with intelligence officials before major events.  The President typically does this before the holidays; he’ll often do this before the Fourth of July.  And obviously, with the upcoming inauguration, we want to make sure — the President wanted to make sure that our security posture was in place to protect the American people.

Q    That’s a Situation Room meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know exactly where this meeting took place, but we can confirm that for you.

Q    Anything else?  Is he — we’ve talked about pardons and commutations, and talked about appointments.  Is there anything else that we can expect over the next number of hours that are work product, if you will, that the President is trying to get done before he leaves?  Even if you can identify some areas.  We know he’s concerned about immigration.  We know he’s concerned about social justice.  We know he’s concerned about a lot of things.

MR. EARNEST:  Right.

Q    Can you point us to anything that he is, in the final hours, really trying to focus on and get done?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any announcements to preview, but the President has still got a lot of work to do.  And even in just the last couple of days here, he’s focused on the task at hand, even as he also does some of the other things around the White House, like bidding a fond farewell to members of his staff and other people from across the administration, and also I think spending some time thinking about his own time and his own tenure here.  But stay tuned.  If there’s more, we’ll let you know.

Carol.

Q    Thank you.  I guess I’ll follow on that note.  Can you give us an update on the President’s efforts to close Guantanamo?  And are you prepared at this time to just — say it will remain open Friday afternoon?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can confirm — and I think this is something that you’ve already reported — that there was a transfer of 10 detainees from the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay to the government of Oman.  With that transfer being completed, there are now 45 detainees at Gitmo.  When President Obama took office, the detainee population was at 242, so since that time, we’ve moved 193 detainees to 42 countries for repatriation, resettlement, or prosecution.

Obviously, that work was a result of the review that President Obama ordered almost exactly eight years ago today to ask the intelligence community and other national security agencies to engage in a case-by-case review of the files of the detainees, and determine if any of them could be transferred to other countries under a set of strict security requirements that would limit their ability to harm the United States.  And so that’s been an effort that has greatly reduced the prison population.

At this point, I don’t anticipate that we will succeed in that goal of closing the prison, but it’s not for a lack of trying — that, I assure you.  And the only reason it didn’t happen is because of the politics that members of Congress in both parties, frankly, played with this issue.  And it has put the United States in a position where, because of the obstacles erected by Congress, terrorist organizations have a powerful recruiting tool, and millions in taxpayer dollars are wasted to operate this large facility for 45 people, potentially less.

That’s not a good use of taxpayer dollars, and it certainly isn’t the most effective way to protect our country.  And that’s not just a conclusion that President Obama has reached, that’s a conclusion that’s been reached by people like President Bush and senior members of his national security team.  So this isn’t a partisan issue, and I think the disappointment at Congress’s action in this area is also bipartisan in nature.

Q    Two follow-ups on that.  At what point did the President make that determination, that he would not succeed? And do you expect any additional transfers this week?

MR. EARNEST:  The possibility of additional transfers remains a possibility.  Look, I think once there was a — once we’d reach the 30-day deadline for notifying Congress in advance of detainee transfers, the likelihood of succeeding in closing the prison was quite remote.

Q    One other quick question.  Chinese President Xi today delivered a speech in Davos where he gave a defense of globalization and warned against a trade war and protectionism, and this is obviously something the President has spoken a lot about, and I’m curious if you have any reaction to the Chinese President’s speech.

MR. EARNEST:  I didn’t read the text of President Xi’s remarks, but certainly based on the news coverage, I think this does surface a central question — for the American people, for policymakers, for economic leaders, and even national security leaders — about what role the United States is going to play in the global economy and what role the United States is going to play in Asia Pacific.  And President Obama put forward his own strategy, one that sought to deepen our alliances with Australia, South Korea, and Japan that has resulted in a beefed-up military presence in the Asia Pacific, to protect our allies, to deepen our coordination and cooperation with them, and to ensure they’re protected from threats that emanate in the region.

The President also felt strongly that that intensified security cooperation should be partnered with greater economic integration in that region of the world.  Southeast Asia in particular is home to some of the most dynamic economies in the world.  These are smaller countries, but they have rapidly growing middle-class populations, and many of the countries who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement are home to those economies.  And the completion of that agreement and the ratification of that agreement by Congress would have given American businesses a better opportunity to compete in that part of the world.  That would have been good for our economy and good for our businesses and, most importantly, good for our workers.

The agreement would have required other countries to slash 18,000 taxes that they impose on American products.  It would have held those countries accountable for raising labor standards, raising human rights standards, raising environmental standards, the kinds of standards that we already observe here.  And to shut off the U.S. from those kinds of agreements isn’t just a missed opportunity, it actually puts the United States at a greater disadvantage because we’re hearing many of those countries indicate a desire to move forward with that agreement.

So that means that other countries who have signed on are going to be at an advantage over U.S. products, to say nothing of the role of the Chinese.  China would love to come and strike their own agreements with these other countries for the same reasons that we would like to — because these are some of the fastest-growing economies of the world and they have a rapidly growing middle class that could be available to buy Chinese products.  And we know that if the Chinese negotiate a deal, they’re not looking to raise human rights standards; they’re not looking to raise labor standards; they’re not looking to put in place strict, tough intellectual property protections.

So the President is deeply disappointed that Congress hasn’t moved to ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership because of the obvious benefits for the American people.  And that’s going to have consequences not just for our economy and the success that our country has in confronting the forces of globalization and looking out for the interests of working people, it’s also going to have an impact on our national security.

So obviously the incoming administration has proposed a different strategy when it comes to countering the forces of globalization.  I believe the President’s economic record speaks for itself.  And all of you will have an opportunity to test just how — well, whether or not the strategy put forward by the incoming administration works and actually serves the interests of the American people, the American economy, and American workers.

Mark.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Have there ever been days when you’ve dreaded coming out here?  (Laughter.)  Or let me put it another way — have there been days when you didn’t dread coming out here?  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Let me answer your question this way.  There was — I did the briefing here — well, I did a briefing like this 354 times as Press Secretary —

Q    My count is higher.

MR. EARNEST:  Is it higher?

Q    Yeah.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the stenographers separated out the times that I briefed as the Principal Deputy Press Secretary, so that may account for the difference, but we can look at the numbers.

Q    I also counted gaggles.

MR. EARNEST:  They did, too.  I did almost the same number as both the Press Secretary and as the Deputy.

Q    I trust Mark’s number.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  That’s understandable.  That’s understandable.  In the 354 or so times that I walked into this room, I never took for granted the blessing that was the opportunity to stand here.  And most people don’t have an opportunity to influence the debate in this way.  The arguments that you hear me make, these are President Obama’s arguments.  This is his vision for the country that I’m advocating for.  So I’m not trying to take credit for that.

But these are arguments, and this is a vision for the country, and these are values that I passionately believe in.  And having the opportunity to influence the way that those arguments are made, to look for ways to deliver them in the most persuasive way that I can think of is an extraordinary intellectual challenge, but it also really gives me an opportunity to shape the debate in a way that few other people in this town have.

So there were days when I knew I was going to come out here and get some tough questions, and there were days when I was going to walk back to my office frustrated about how it went, but I never took for granted what an extraordinary opportunity it is to be a part of this process with you and to advocate for a President and a vision that I deeply believe in.  And I’m going to miss it.  It’ll be — at the risk of oversharing, it’ll be hard to — well, let me say it this way — (laughter) — it’ll take some getting used to, to seeing somebody else stand up here doing it.

Q    Or not.

THE PRESIDENT:  Or not. (Laughter.)  And — but that’s —

Q    Are you going to watch?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll probably watch.  I’m interested in what happens in here, and I think it’s important for the country.  And I’ll be paying attention.

Q    Marlin Fitzwater used to say that after he left that job, he used to love putting his feet up, pouring a glass of wine, and watching someone else face all the questions.  (Laughter.)  Is that how you think you’ll be watching your successor?

MR. EARNEST:  There may be a time or two when schadenfreude creeps in.  But look — again, I’ve got enormous respect for the work that all of you do and for the conventions that we have erected to engage in this discussion, and it’s been an honor to be a part of it.  And yeah, I’m interested in what happens here, and I’ll continue to follow it.  But I will be relieved to not have the burden to follow it as closely as this job has required over the last two-and-a-half years.

Go ahead, JC.

Q    It’s sort of a personal question and it follows up, I hope, on what Mark was saying.  The President alluded earlier that you could possibly have a career on the silver screen.  (Laughter.)  Many of us — I believe that.  Keep smiling — that’s it.  Perfect.  And we know that you’re not going to require your very patient wife, Natalie, and your son, Walker, to pepper you with tough questions every day between 1:00 and 3:00 in the afternoon.  But to follow up, where is your passion going?  What would you like to do?  And where do you want to follow your dream?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll tell you that I’ve had this conversation with the President.  And one of the challenges of the job is it is all-consuming.  It’s difficult to remember a day in which the first thing that pops into my head when I open my eyes in the morning — usually in the dark — was to wonder what I needed to get done in order to prepare for this briefing, or to fulfill my responsibilities at the White House.

So I’m looking forward to having a little bit more time and space, both physically and intellectually, to reflect on this experience and to consider what the future might hold.  But I honestly don’t know.

Q    Will you keep us posted?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, I’ll keep you posted.

Mark.

Q    Yes, just to clarify two quick things.

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.

Q    The clemency petitions that have come in, you led us to believe last week that there would be a round, some size, of additional clemencies before the President leaves?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.

Q    That is still the case, correct?  Whatever size they are.

MR. EARNEST:  What I can tell you is that the work on this issue continues, and I certainly wouldn’t rule out additional announcements before noon on Friday.

Q    The President considers this still an important part of his legacy.

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.

Q    And the President’s plans on Friday — I know you don’t want to go into detail about it — but we’re right in calling this a vacation, correct?  He’s not planning to go out and do speeches right away and meetings and stuff like that.

MR. EARNEST:  That is correct.  The President will not be working when he arrives in Palm Springs.

Q    Perhaps a fair amount of putting and other things?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah, and I’m sure that many of you will be disappointed you won’t have the opportunity to tag along.  (Laughter.)

Scott.

Q    Is the First Family going to be staying in rental housing?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know where they’re going to be staying in Palm Springs, and I doubt we’ll announce it in advance.

Q    And you’re leaving your office on Thursday afternoon or evening, but will you and your team will have control of the emails and Twitter and WhiteHouse.gov up until noontime?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, there is a plan in place to effect that transition at noon on Friday.  I’m not sure exactly how they’re going to do that.  But it’s part of — it’s one of the reasons I have so much admiration for my colleagues who are more technologically inclined than I am.

John.

Q    Thanks, a lot, Josh.  Congratulations on your 354th briefing, or whatever that number is.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Given all of your experience in this briefing room, can you talk a little bit from your perspective about the advantages of coming out to the James S. Brady Briefing Room to talk to us on a regular basis?

MR. EARNEST:  This is a place that’s recognized immediately around the world as the place where announcements at the White House are made.  And again, the symbolic value of this podium in this room in front of all of you is powerful.  And it sends a strong message not just to the American people, but to people around the world about what the White House is doing, what the President is focused on, what his priorities are, and how he’s seeking to advance our interests.

So again, I think that there are a lot of common-sense logistical reasons to preserve the kind of access that all of you have to the West Wing.  But I wouldn’t overlook the important, symbolic value that makes the arrangement that we have in the United States rather unique.

Q    As far as statements, which are regularly put out by your office, I didn’t notice a statement in regards to the death of Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon.  Was that an oversight?  Can you talk a little bit about his contribution to our country?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I obviously read some of the news coverage about Mr. Cernan’s death.  And he certainly falls in the category of American hero, somebody who risked his life in the earliest days of the American space program to do remarkable things and inspire the American people to reach for great heights — reach for great heights.  And obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with his family today and those how loved him.

I can’t speak to why there wasn’t a presidential statement.  But certainly the President and First Lady made note of his death and are remembering him along with some of the other Americans who were inspired by his courage.

Richard.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  On behalf of the foreign press, I also want to thank you.  You’ve been helpful but very welcoming.  And all of us, we benefited from your openness so much.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Richard.

Q    You have to know that all this has been very much appreciated.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you.

Q    Knowing that there are also many auto plants in Canada, I would like your reaction to the President-elect’s comment or intention on imposing a 35 percent tax on German cars being built in Mexico and sold in the U.S.

MR. EARNEST:  Richard, I think this is a pertinent question.  The President, on his last trip to Canada over the summer, talked about this very issue.

The U.S. auto industry is part of an integrated global supply chain.  And the presence of a lot of those suppliers for U.S. automakers is actually in Canada, and it speaks to the important ties between our two countries.  And maintaining those robust ties is good for the economy in both our countries; that if you shut down the supply chain or you shut down the trade between the United States and Canada, you’re going to cut off the American auto industry from the global supply chain in a way that’s going to have direct and negative consequences for American businesses and American workers.

That’s a real problem.  And I think it is an illustration of why President Obama has chosen a different strategy that actually seeks to ensure that other countries, including Canada, are living up to the kinds of high standards that are set here in the United States and were codified in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  Canada, of course, was part of those negotiations and signed onto the deal.

So the President has spoken out about this at some length.  He certainly does believe that the strategy that he has advocated is the right one, but the incoming President has some different ideas in mind.  And we’ll have an opportunity to assess whether or not his strategy is going to work.

Jean.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  You have worked hard as White House press secretary.  I deeply appreciate you.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Jean, I appreciate that.  That’s very kind.

Q    Can I follow — ask a question.  After you — whatever — you go out the White House, can I also ask on those issues?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m sorry, say one more time?

Q    Can I follow up on the North Korean issues — continue —

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there will be somebody else in the White House who will be setting policy with regard to the United States’ relationship with North Korea.  And I am hopeful there will be somebody else who is here answering your questions, but I certainly have enjoyed the opportunity that you and I have had to discuss this critically important national security priority of the United States.

Q    Thank you very much.  On THAAD missile issues.  Last week, incoming administration (inaudible) and South Korean national security agency director agreed to deploy THAAD missile in South Korea.  On this regard, China continues to threaten retaliation against South Korea for THAAD issues.  What can the United States do about Chinese actions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States has made clear that the deployment of a THAAD battery to South Korea would be focused solely on countering the missile threat that emanates from North Korea.  South Korea is an ally of the United States of America.  We are duty-bound to defend them.  And President Obama has made clear, and I think the tens of thousands of U.S. troops that are on the ground in Korea right now make clear, that we’re going to live up to that promise.  And the deployment of a THAAD battery in South Korea would enhance our ability to do exactly that.

We’ve explained that to the Chinese at the highest levels, and we’ll continue to go to great lengths to help them understand exactly what we are trying to do.  And I know that that is something that is taking place not just at the presidential level, but I know that there have been some conversations through diplomatic channels, military channels to try to ease the concerns of the Chinese that this is an effort that’s focused on North Korea and not on having any impact on China’s capabilities.

Q    And one more thing.  Recently, high-level diplomat — North Korean defector, Thae Yong-ho, from UK — he has testimony, and he said that North Korean Kim Jong-un will (inaudible) nuclear weapons, and that he also said that it is a waste of time for Six-Party talks to (inaudible) the North Korean nuclear weapons.  Do you think we still need Six-Party talks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen the specific comments of the defector that you cited, but I can tell you it’s the United States’ policy that the United States is prepared to engage with North Korea diplomatically when they make clear a commitment to a set of principles, including denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.  And we’ve made that clear, and that policy hasn’t changed.

Let’s do a couple more here.  John.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  And despite differences on things, thanks for your graciousness to me and always helping me on answers, and especially helping some friends of mine when they wanted some things in the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome, John.  I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to work with you, as well.

Q    Thank you.  Questions are twofold.  First, David Horowitz, the author, has come out with a book entitled “Big Agenda,” in which he says that Donald Trump has an agenda to repeal or roll back 90 percent of the executive orders and executive actions that President Obama took in his eight years in office.  Your reaction to that?  And do you think that’s possible to actually do?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard of the book that you’re referring to.  What I can tell you is that President Obama has often made the argument that there’s a difference between campaigning and governing.  And I know that the incoming President made a lot of promises about all of the executive actions that he was going to repeal, but when he’s responsible for governing the country, he will have to reconcile those promises with the impact — the negative impact that following through on those promises would have on the country.  That may end up altering his decision to follow through, but ultimately those will be decisions for him to make.

And it’s why you heard me on many occasions express a preference for working with Congress to try to institute policy that would be good for the country.  But we ran into a brick wall of opposition when it comes to Republicans when they took power in 2011, and so we didn’t pass as much legislatively as we would have liked to have done.  But the President did use his executive authority to advance our country’s interests and to advance the agenda that he was seeking to implement.  And the incoming President will have to determine how much of that he wants to roll back.

Q    And I’ve been dying to ask this all day — all week, actually.  Two former press secretaries to presidents have gone on to run for elective office after they left the podium up there, both unsuccessful.  Would you ever consider relocating to your home state, the “Show Me” state of Missouri, where they do need some fresh Democrats — I don’t think you’ll argue about it — (laughter) — and run for office yourself?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can tell you is that I know that there are a lot of talented young Missourians who are Democrats who should not be overlooked.  And I’ve certainly been in touch with some of them, and I think there’s a bright future for Democrats in Missouri, but at this point I’m not planning to be one of them.

Jared.

Q    Josh, over the weekend the President-elect told the Washington Post that he is supporting insurance for everybody, health insurance for everybody.  Is this a plan that the President — said he’ll support something that’s better than Obamacare?  Is that enough to whet his appetite?  Or does he need more information?

MR. EARNEST:  Jared, the President — I can tell you that President Obama looks forward to somebody calling his bluff.  The President spoke on live, national television, in primetime, looked directly into the camera and said that he will advocate for policy, even if it’s put forward by Republicans, if it will cover more people and more effectively lower costs than even Obamacare has.

So the President stands by that promise.  And according to what the President-elect promised to The Washington Post, it sounds like we might get a chance to see whether or not he’s calling that bluff.  The best way to cover everybody, and I think the only way that anybody thinks you can cover everybody, is through a single-payer plan.

So it’s unclear, I think, exactly at this point exactly what the incoming administration’s plans are.  It does not appear that, according to some reporting that I saw, that even their nominee to be HHS secretary is clear exactly what their plans are.

But the President made that commitment, and he’ll stand by it.  And I assure you that there are few things that would make him happier in his post-presidency than to have the incoming administration call his bluff, because this is an issue that he feels strongly about.  And as he himself has said, there’s no pride of authorship here.  If there are improvements that can be made on Obamacare, he won’t hesitate to support them.

Q    And I know that you haven’t given us information about the frequency or duration or readouts of the calls between the President and the President-elect, but I want to ask, looking forward, once he’s on vacation after Inauguration Day, then-former President Obama, what’s the level of his unpluggedness, and will he be available if there’s a call from the Commander-in-Chief?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what is certainly true of former presidents is they have a unique perspective on the burden and challenges that are assumed by the incoming President.  And as President Obama said the day after the election, he’s rooting for the incoming President to succeed in uniting the country.  And if there’s an opportunity for former-President Obama to assist in that effort, I’m confident that wherever he is, he’ll take the call.

Lalit.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  I join in thanking you on behalf of the foreign press for working with us.

MR. EARNEST:  You’re welcome.

Q    And in fact, the first foreign pool was done when the President invited Indian Prime Minister in November of 2009, and since then we are having (inaudible).  In the first briefing that the President — the press secretary did in 2009, the main foreign policy topic was the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  (Inaudible) was not.  But my question is, there are still 10,000 troops left in Afghanistan.  Does the President regret that he hasn’t recalled all the troops from there?  And had the situation been different, had Pakistan been more helpful in eliminating terrorist safe havens from their territories?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, with regard to Pakistan, obviously, the United States has an extraordinarily complicated relationship, particularly when it comes to national security, with Pakistan.  There are some areas where the United States and Pakistan have been able to effectively cooperate to counter terrorism and to fight extremism, and that’s served the interests of both countries.  And obviously, tragically, Pakistan is a country where many victims of terrorism have been claimed.

And the President certainly is interested and is hopeful that the next administration will be able to deepen that cooperation with Pakistan, because it wouldn’t just enhance security in Pakistan; it actually would make the United States safer, too.

With regard to Afghanistan, I think this will be the kind of issue that historians spend a lot of time looking at when evaluating President Obama’s presidency.  What President Obama promised to do when taking office was to refocus our attention on the threat from al Qaeda that emanates in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.  And President Obama put in place a strategy, working closely with his national security team, at the State Department and the intelligence community, and, of course, the Department of Defense.  And over the course of several years, in part relying on some new capabilities, succeeded in decimating core al Qaeda that previously menaced the United States from hideouts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

That is a major accomplishment, and it’s an accomplishment that has made the American people safer.  But the threat in that region of the world has not been eliminated, and there continue to be a smaller number of U.S. servicemembers keeping us safe, engaging in counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.

They’re also working closely with thousands of troops from our NATO partners who are also there doing the same thing.  And I know there has been a question raised about how important a role NATO has played when it comes to counterterrorism.  You have to look no further than Afghanistan to assess just how valuable a contribution that they have made to that effort.

So the situation in Afghanistan continues to be one of concern, and I think the President would acknowledge that this is an area where we’ve made important progress that has made the American people safer, but there’s still important work to be done in this region of the world, and this is a responsibility that the incoming President will assume.

Q    And the President visited India twice; no other President had in the past.  And he has met with Prime Minister Modi both times.  What kind of relationship the President would like the new administration to have with the largest democratic country in the world?

MR. EARNEST:  President Obama did make strengthening our ties with India a genuine priority.  The President believed that that served our economic interest and our national security interest, and that would certainly explain the frequent visits of both Indian Prime Ministers during President Obama’s tenure in office to the White House, and it would explain President Obama’s visits to India as well.  And each of those visits was oriented around a discussion about how to deepen our economic ties in a way that has positive benefits for workers in both our countries, but also to look for ways that we can work more effectively together to fight extremism and to enhance the security of citizens in both our countries.

And President Obama certainly believes that we have made important progress in deepening and strengthening the relationship between two of the world’s largest democracies, and is hopeful that that progress will continue under the next administration.

Francesca, I’m going to give my Kansas City girl the last one.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you.  I truthfully was going to ask first, what the heck happened with the Chiefs the other night?  (Laughter.)  I’d like to know the answer to that.

MR. EARNEST:  Unfortunately, it’s just the latest in a long string of heartbreaking playoff defeats for the Kansas City Chiefs.  So there’s always next year.

Q    While endeavoring to keep it light here at the end, I apologize if you said some of this earlier, there was a little bit of a commotion at the beginning of the briefing —

MR. EARNEST:  There was.

Q    Did you say how long the President and First Lady will be staying in Palm Beach?  Is this like a quick trip or —

MR. EARNEST:  Palm Springs.

Q    Sorry, sorry, Palm Springs.  Gosh, not Palm Beach — that’s the other President.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  I did not say how long they’re going to stay.  They will arrive on Friday afternoon in Palm Springs, but I don’t anticipate having any updates on their travel schedule beyond then.

Q    And you said the First Family — so the daughters will also be going on that trip as well?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s my understanding.  And we’ll confirm that for you on Friday.

Q    Is there a possibility that perhaps, immediately after that, they’ll go back to Chicago?  When they were there the other day, they didn’t stay overnight — hadn’t visited the home.  Is that potential in the docket?  Trying to get one last week ahead here out of you.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah.  I guess this is one of the benefits of ending the presidency on a Friday, is I don’t anticipate that there will be any more weeks-ahead.  The President and the First Lady and their family are looking forward to getting out to Palm Springs and beginning to relax a little bit, but I don’t have any updates on their plans beyond that.

Q    And then one final question.  We always assumed that the book the President was writing was a memoir.  Is it possible that he’s writing the next great American novel?

MR. EARNEST:  If he is, he has not told me that, but I think for a variety of reasons we’re all eagerly anticipating how President Obama chooses to devote his time after leaving the White House.

So, thank you all.  It’s been a genuine pleasure.  (Applause.)

2:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency October 22, 2014: White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest’s Statement on the Tragic Shootings in Ottawa, Canada at Parliament Hill — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

On the Tragic Shootings in Ottawa, Canada

Source: WH, 10-22-14

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest made the following statement in response to the shootings in Ottawa, Canada this morning, when a Canadian soldier was shot in the wake of another attack in Quebec earlier this week:

“The thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House go out to the families of those who were affected by today’s shooting in Canada, as well as to the family of the soldier who was killed earlier this week. The President was briefed earlier today in the Oval Office by his top homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco. The details about the nature of this event are still sketchy, which is not unusual in a chaotic situation like this one.

“Canada is one of the closest friends and allies of the United States. And from issues ranging from the strength of our NATO alliance, to the Ebola response, to dealing with ISIL, there’s a strong partnership and friendship and alliance between the United States and Canada. The United States strongly values that relationship, and that relationship makes the citizens of this country safer.

“Officials inside the U.S. government have been in close touch with their Canadian counterparts today to offer assistance. That includes officials here in the White House. We have been in touch with the Canadians about arranging a phone call between the President and Prime Minister Harper, at the Prime Minister’s earliest convenience.”

Political Musings June 12, 2014: Heller wants Obama to be involved in unemployment benefits extension negotiation

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Musings June 2, 2014: Obama still hopeful House will pass unemployment extension bill after deadline

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

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Although the chances of the House of Representatives passing the Senate passed unemployment benefits bill is dwindling to nil, President Barack Obama still remains optimistic that Congress will extend benefits for the 2.8 million long-term jobless Americans that…READ MORE

Political Musings May 22, 2014: White House speaks out on unemployment extension urges House to pass bill

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Political Musings April 23, 2014: White House refuses Boehner, GOP unemployment benefits extension bill compromise

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

 

Full Text Political Documents August 30, 2013: White House: US Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Government Assessment of the Syrian Government’s Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21, 2013

Source: WH, 8-30-13

The United States Government assesses with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus suburbs on August 21, 2013. We further assess that the regime used a nerve agent in the attack. These all-source assessments are based on human, signals, and geospatial intelligence as well as a significant body of open source reporting.Our classified assessments have been shared with the U.S. Congress and key international partners. To protect sources and methods, we cannot publicly release all available intelligence – but what follows is an unclassified summary of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s analysis of what took place.

Syrian Government Use of Chemical Weapons on August 21

A large body of independent sources indicates that a chemical weapons attack took place in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. In addition to U.S. intelligence information, there are accounts from international and Syrian medical personnel; videos; witness accounts; thousands of social media reports from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area; journalist accounts; and reports from highly credible nongovernmental organizations.

A preliminary U.S. government assessment determined that 1,429 people were killed in the chemical weapons attack, including at least 426 children, though this assessment will certainly evolve as we obtain more information.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian government carried out the chemical weapons attack against opposition elements in the Damascus suburbs on August 21. We assess that the scenario in which the opposition executed the attack on August 21 is highly unlikely. The body of information used to make this assessment includes intelligence pertaining to the regime’s preparations for this attack and its means of delivery, multiple streams of intelligence about the attack itself and its effect, our post-attack observations, and the differences between the capabilities of the regime and the opposition. Our high confidence assessment is the strongest position that the U.S. Intelligence Community can take short of confirmation. We will continue to seek additional information to close gaps in our understanding of what took place.

Background:

The Syrian regime maintains a stockpile of numerous chemical agents, including mustard, sarin, and VX and has thousands of munitions that can be used to deliver chemical warfare agents.

Syrian President Bashar al-Asad is the ultimate decision maker for the chemical weapons program and members of the program are carefully vetted to ensure security and loyalty. The Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) – which is subordinate to the Syrian Ministry of Defense – manages Syria’s chemical weapons program.

We assess with high confidence that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year, including in the Damascus suburbs. This assessment is based on multiple streams of information including reporting of Syrian officials planning and executing chemical weapons attacks and laboratory analysis of physiological samples obtained from a number of individuals, which revealed exposure to sarin. We assess that the opposition has not used chemical weapons.

The Syrian regime has the types of munitions that we assess were used to carry out the attack on August 21, and has the ability to strike simultaneously in multiple locations. We have seen no indication that the opposition has carried out a large-scale, coordinated rocket and artillery attack like the one that occurred on August 21.

We assess that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons over the last year primarily to gain the upper hand or break a stalemate in areas where it has struggled to seize and hold strategically valuable territory. In this regard, we continue to judge that the Syrian regime views chemical weapons as one of many tools in its arsenal, including air power and ballistic missiles, which they indiscriminately use against the opposition.

The Syrian regime has initiated an effort to rid the Damascus suburbs of opposition forces using the area as a base to stage attacks against regime targets in the capital. The regime has failed to clear dozens of Damascus neighborhoods of opposition elements, including neighborhoods targeted on August 21, despite employing nearly all of its conventional weapons systems. We assess that the regime’s frustration with its inability to secure large portions of Damascus may have contributed to its decision to use chemical weapons on August 21.

Preparation:

We have intelligence that leads us to assess that Syrian chemical weapons personnel – including personnel assessed to be associated with the SSRC – were preparing chemical munitions prior to the attack. In the three days prior to the attack, we collected streams of human, signals and geospatial intelligence that reveal regime activities that we assess were associated with preparations for a chemical weapons attack.

Syrian chemical weapons personnel were operating in the Damascus suburb of ‘Adra from Sunday, August 18 until early in the morning on Wednesday, August 21 near an area that the regime uses to mix chemical weapons, including sarin. On August 21, a Syrian regime element prepared for a chemical weapons attack in the Damascus area, including through the utilization of gas masks. Our intelligence sources in the Damascus area did not detect any indications in the days prior to the attack that opposition affiliates were planning to use chemical weapons.

The Attack:

Multiple streams of intelligence indicate that the regime executed a rocket and artillery attack against the Damascus suburbs in the early hours of August 21. Satellite detections corroborate that attacks from a regime-controlled area struck neighborhoods where the chemical attacks reportedly occurred – including Kafr Batna, Jawbar, ‘Ayn Tarma, Darayya, and Mu’addamiyah. This includes the detection of rocket launches from regime controlled territory early in the morning, approximately 90 minutes before the first report of a chemical attack appeared in social media. The lack of flight activity or missile launches also leads us to conclude that the regime used rockets in the attack.

Local social media reports of a chemical attack in the Damascus suburbs began at 2:30 a.m. local time on August 21. Within the next four hours there were thousands of social media reports on this attack from at least 12 different locations in the Damascus area. Multiple accounts described chemical-filled rockets impacting opposition-controlled areas.

Three hospitals in the Damascus area received approximately 3,600 patients displaying symptoms consistent with nerve agent exposure in less than three hours on the morning of August 21, according to a highly credible international humanitarian organization. The reported symptoms, and the epidemiological pattern of events – characterized by the massive influx of patients in a short period of time, the origin of the patients, and the contamination of medical and first aid workers – were consistent with mass exposure to a nerve agent. We also received reports from international and Syrian medical personnel on the ground.

We have identified one hundred videos attributed to the attack, many of which show large numbers of bodies exhibiting physical signs consistent with, but not unique to, nerve agent exposure. The reported symptoms of victims included unconsciousness, foaming from the nose and mouth, constricted pupils, rapid heartbeat, and difficulty breathing. Several of the videos show what appear to be numerous fatalities with no visible injuries, which is consistent with death from chemical weapons, and inconsistent with death from small-arms, high-explosive munitions or blister agents. At least 12 locations are portrayed in the publicly available videos, and a sampling of those videos confirmed that some were shot at the general times and locations described in the footage.

We assess the Syrian opposition does not have the capability to fabricate all of the videos, physical symptoms verified by medical personnel and NGOs, and other information associated with this chemical attack.

We have a body of information, including past Syrian practice, that leads us to conclude that regime officials were witting of and directed the attack on August 21. We intercepted communications involving a senior official intimately familiar with the offensive who confirmed that chemical weapons were used by the regime on August 21 and was concerned with the U.N. inspectors obtaining evidence. On the afternoon of August 21, we have intelligence that Syrian chemical weapons personnel were directed to cease operations. At the same time, the regime intensified the artillery barrage targeting many of the neighborhoods where chemical attacks occurred. In the 24 hour period after the attack, we detected indications of artillery and rocket fire at a rate approximately four times higher than the ten preceding days. We continued to see indications of sustained shelling in the neighborhoods up until the morning of August 26.

To conclude, there is a substantial body of information that implicates the Syrian government’s responsibility in the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21.As indicated, there is additional intelligence that remains classified because of sources and methods concerns that is being provided to Congress and international partners.

Syria: Damascus Areas of Influence and Areas Reportedly Affected by 21 August Chemical Attack

Political Headlines August 27, 2013: US Considering Air Strikes Against Syrian Targets

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

US Considering Air Strikes Against Syrian Targets

The U.S. may be gearing up for military intervention in Syria after accusations that the Syrian government used chemical weapons last week….READ MORE

Political Headlines August 26, 2013: US moves closer to military action against Syria

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

US moves closer to military action against Syria

Source: USA TODAY, 8-26-13

The Obama administration moved closer to military action against Syria on Monday as Secretary of State John Kerry said the government of Bashar Assad used chemical….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Taps Furman to Lead Council of Economic Advisers

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama on Monday nominated longtime economic adviser Jason Furman as chairman of his Council of Economic Advisers, calling him “one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation.”

“When the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job,” the president said as he stood alongside Furman at a White House ceremony….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 10, 2013: President Barack Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Nominates Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13

President Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason FurmanPresident Barack Obama announces his intent to nominate Jason Furman, Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council, left, as the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers to succeed current CEA Chairman Alan Krueger, right, in the State Dining Room of the White House, June 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

This afternoon, President Obama nominated Jason Furman to replace Alan Krueger as the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Furman, 42, will bring a vast amount of economic experience to the role. In 2009, he joined the Obama administration as an Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and the Principal Deputy Director of the National Economic Council….READ MORE

Remarks by the President Nominating Jason Furman as Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers

Source: WH, 6-10-13 

State Dining Room

2:14 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, all of you.  It’s now been nearly five years since an economic crisis and a punishing recession came together to cost far too many Americans their jobs, and their homes, and the sense of security that they had built up over time.  And by the time I took office, my team and I were facing bubbles that had burst; markets that had cratered; bank after bank on the verge of collapse.  And the heartbeat of American manufacturing, our auto industry, was flatlining.  And all this meant that hundreds of thousands of Americans were losing their jobs each month. So this was a scary time. And nobody had any idea where the bottom would be.

Four and a half years later, our businesses have created nearly 7 million new jobs over the past 36 months.  The American auto industry has come roaring back.  We’re producing more of our own energy, we’re consuming less that we import from other countries.  Our deficits are shrinking rapidly.  The cost of health care is slowing.  The housing market is rebounding.  People’s retirement savings are growing.  The wealth that was lost from that recession has now been recovered.

All of this progress is a testament to the grit and resolve of the American people, most of all.  But it’s also due in some measurable way to the incredible dedication of the men and women who helped to engineer America’s response.  And two of those people are standing next to me, two very smart economists:  Alan Krueger and Jason Furman.

Today, I can announce that Alan is heading back to teach his beloved students at Michelle’s alma mater — Princeton University.  When they get together all they can talk about is Princeton and they’re all very proud, and those of us who didn’t go to Princeton have to put up with it.  (Laughter.)  And I’m proud to say that Jason Furman has agreed to replace Alan as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers.

During the crisis, Alan stepped in initially to help engineer our response as Assistant Secretary and chief economist at the Treasury Department.  He was so good that we then had to beg him to come back, extend his tour, to serve as the Chairman of my Council of Economic Advisers, where he’s been the driving force behind actions that we’ve taken to help restart the flow of lending to small businesses, and create new jobs, and arm workers with the skills they need to fill them, to reduce income inequality, to rebuild our aging infrastructure, and to bring down our deficits in a responsible way.

And Alan is driven by the basic bargain at the heart of our economy — the idea that hard work should be rewarded.  He’s motivated by the principle that no one who works full-time in the greatest nation on Earth should have to raise their families in poverty or below poverty levels.  His commitment to a rising, thriving middle class shines through in his often passionate presentations and — at least for an economist they’re passionate.  (Laughter.)  And in the policies that he’s pushed, and I know this will continue to be a focus of his research.

Alan’s wife and son are here today, and I know that they’re all looking forward to having Alan back.  (Laughter.)  And now that Alan has some free time, he can return to another burning passion of his — “Rockonomics.”  The economics of rock and roll.  This is something that Alan actually cares about — seriously, on Wednesday he’s giving a speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  He’s got a t-shirt under his suit — (laughter) — with a big tongue sticking out.  (Laughter.)  Don’t show it.  (Laughter and applause.)

So Alan has become one of my most trusted advisors.  He’s become a wonderful friend.  I’m sad to see him go.  But I know that he will continue to do outstanding work and, fortunately, he’ll still be available for us to consult with him periodically because he’s a constant font of good ideas about how we can further help the American people.  So thank you very much, Alan, for all the good work that you’ve done.  (Applause.)

I’m also proud to nominate another outstanding economist to take his place.  Jason Furman is one of the most brilliant economic minds of his generation, don’t take my word for it — you can talk to other economists who know a lot more than I do about it.  He’s won the respect and admiration from his peers across the political spectrum.  His Ph.D. thesis advisor, Greg Mankiw, chaired the Council of Economic Advisers under George W. Bush.  Nobel Prize Winner Joe Stiglitz, on the other side of the economic spectrum, hired Jason to work for the CEA under President Clinton.

After leaving President Clinton’s White House, Jason finished his Ph.D. in economics, quickly acquired a reputation as a world-class scholar and researcher.  But public service kept calling, and Jason kept answering that call because he believes deeply in it.  So from working at the World Bank on issues of inequality and international finance to developing new proposals to strengthen our health and retirement programs, he helped to shape some of our most important economic policy debates.

And when I asked him to join my team in 2008, even though his baby daughter — that’s right — (laughter) — you were this big — had just been born, he agreed to serve once again.  And over the last five years I’ve come to trust not only his head, but also his heart, because Jason never forgets who it is that we’re fighting for:  middle-class families, folks who are working hard to climb their way into the middle class, the next generation.

And when the stakes are highest, there’s no one I’d rather turn to for straightforward, unvarnished advice that helps me to do my job.  He understands all sides of an argument, not just one side of it.  He’s worked tirelessly on just about every major economic challenge of the past four and a half years, from averting a second depression, to fighting for tax cuts that help millions of working families make ends meet, to creating new incentives for businesses to hire, to reducing our deficits in a balanced way that benefits the middle class.

And so, Eve, Jason’s wife, who is an accomplished writer herself, has put up with a lot of hours with Jason away.  Henry and Louisa, who are here, they’ve made a lot of sacrifices so that their husband and dad could be here working for the American people.  So I appreciate you guys for sharing daddy.  (Laughter.)  Just a little bit longer.  (Laughter.)  And the reason it’s important is because while we’ve cleared away the rubble of crisis and laid a new foundation for growth, our work is nowhere near done.

Even though the economy is growing, too many middle-class families still feel like they’re working harder and harder and can’t get ahead.  Inequality is still growing in our society.  Too many young people aren’t sure whether they’ll be able to match the living standards of their parents.  We have too many kids in poverty in this country still.

There are some basic steps that we can take to strengthen the position of working people in this country, to help our economy grow faster, to make sure that it’s more competitive.  And some of that requires political will.  Some of it requires an abiding passion for making sure everybody in this country has a fair shot.  But it also requires good economists.  I know it’s called a dismal science, but I don’t find it that dismal.  (Laughter.)  I think it’s actually pretty interesting.  Alan and Jason appreciate that.  (Laughter.)  So sometimes the rest of my staff thinks, oh, Obama is getting together with his economists and they’re going to have a wonkfest for the next hour.  (Laughter.)

But this stuff matters.  It’s not just numbers on a page.  It makes a difference in terms of whether or not people get a chance at life, and also, how do we optimize opportunity and make sure that it — we don’t have a contradiction between an efficient, growing, free-market economy, and one in which everybody gets a fair shot and where we’re caring for the vulnerable and the disabled and folks in our society who need help.

So a growing economy that creates good middle-class jobs, that rewards hard work and responsibility, that’s our North Star.  Jason shares that focus.  I know Alan shares that passion.  And Jason’s new role as the Chairman of the Economic — Council of Economic Advisors, he’ll be working with some of our country’s leading economists, including Jim Stock, who has joined us.  And I’m relying on them to provide analysis and recommendations with just one thing in mind: What’s going to do the most good for the most people in this country — not what’s best for a political party, not what’s best for a special interest.  I don’t have another election.  It’s not what’s best for me — what’s best for our middle class, and everybody who is working hard to get there.  That’s what the American people deserve.

So I would urge the Senate to swiftly confirm Jason Furman. And I want to, again, thank Alan for his outstanding service.  I want to thank Jason and his family for continuing to serve the country they love.  And for all the economists in the room, thank you for the occasionally under-appreciated work that you do.  (Laughter.)

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:25 P.M EDT

Political Headlines June 10, 2013: NSA Leaker Edward Snowden a ‘National Hero’ on White House Petition

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

NSA Leaker a ‘National Hero’ on White House Petition

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-10-13

petitions.whitehouse.gov

Within hours of Edward Snowden’s revealing that he was the source of the National Security Agency surveillance leak last week, thousands of people had signed a petition on the White House website asking for a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed.”….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 9, 2013: Sens. John McCain, Dianne Feinstein and Obama Chief of Staff on Surprise Trip to Gitmo

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

McCain, Feinstein and Obama Chief of Staff on Surprise Trip to Gitmo

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-9-13

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., traveled to the federal detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on Sunday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 2, 2013: Rep. Darrell Issa Says Washington Directed IRS Targetting Out of Cincinnati

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Rep. Issa Says Washington Directed IRS Targetting Out of Cincinnati

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-2-13

The IRS agents in Cincinnati who were involved in the targeting of conservative groups were “being directly ordered from Washington,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said on Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, as he accused the White House of lying about the involvement of IRS headquarters officials in the scandal, calling White House Press Secretary Jay Carney a “paid liar.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 28, 2013: White House Say They Knew of Sen John McCain’s Syria Trip

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House Knew of McCain’s Syria Trip

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-28-13

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

The White House was made aware ahead of time that Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would travel to Syria this week, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency May 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Rose Garden Press Conference Discussing the IRS & the Associated Press / Justice Department Scandals & Syria

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Joint Press Conference by President Obama and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey

Doug Mills/The New York Times
Political storm clouds gave way to a steady drizzle at a Rose Garden news conference Thursday.

Source: WH, 5-16-13

Rose Garden

12:48 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, before we get started let me just make sure that I’m a good host.  Mr. Prime Minister, do you want an umbrella?  (Laughter.)  Because we can arrange it if you need it.  You’re okay?  All right, this will be incentive for the press to ask concise questions and us to give concise answers.

I’m going to start with Julianna Goldman of Bloomberg.

Q    Unfortunately, we all forgot umbrellas.  Mr. President, I want to ask you about the IRS.  Can you assure the American people that nobody in the White House knew about the agency’s actions before your Counsel’s Office found out on April 22nd?  And when they did find out, do you think that you should have learned about it before you learned about it from news reports as you said last Friday?  And also, are you opposed to there being a special council appointed to lead the Justice Department investigation?….

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, with respect to the IRS, I spoke to this yesterday.  My main concern is fixing a problem, and we began that process yesterday by asking and accepting the resignation of the Acting Director there.  We will be putting in new leadership that will be able to make sure that — following up on the IG audit — that we gather up all the facts, that we hold accountable those who have taken these outrageous actions.  As I said last night, it is just simply unacceptable for there to even be a hint of partisanship or ideology when it comes to the application of our tax laws.

I am going to go ahead and ask folks — why don’t we get a couple of Marines, they’re going to look good next to us — (laughter) — just because I’ve got a change of suits — (laughter) — but I don’t know about our Prime Minister.  There we go.  That’s good.  You guys I’m sorry about.  (Laughter.)

But let me make sure that I answer your specific question.  I can assure you that I certainly did not know anything about the IG report before the IG report had been leaked through the press. Typically, the IG reports are not supposed to be widely distributed or shared.  They tend to be a process that everybody is trying to protect the integrity of.  But what I’m absolutely certain of is that the actions that were described in that IG report are unacceptable.

So in addition to making sure that we’ve got a new acting director there, we’re also going to make sure that we gather up the facts, and hold accountable and responsible anybody who was involved in this.  We’re going to make sure that we identify any structural or management issues to prevent something like this from happening again.  We’re going to make sure that we are accepting all of the recommendations that the IG has in the report.

And I’m looking forward to working with Congress to fully investigate what happened, make sure that it doesn’t happen again, and also look at some of the laws that create a bunch of ambiguity in which the IRS may not have enough guidance and not be clear about what exactly they need to be doing and doing it right, so that the American people have confidence that the tax laws are being applied fairly and evenly.

So in terms of the White House and reporting, I think that you’ve gotten that information from Mr. Carney and others.  I promise you this — that the minute I found out about it, then my main focus is making sure we get the thing fixed.  I think that it’s going to be sufficient for us to be working with Congress.  They’ve got a whole bunch of committees.  We’ve got IGs already there.

The IG has done an audit; it’s now my understanding they’re going to be recommending an investigation.  And Attorney General Holder also announced a criminal investigation of what happened. Between those investigations, I think we’re going to be able to figure out exactly what happened, who was involved, what went wrong, and we’re going to be able to implement steps to fix it.

And that, ultimately, is the main priority that I have, but also I think the American people have.  They understand that we’ve got an agency that has enormous potential power and is involved in everybody’s lives.  And that’s part of the reason why it’s been treated as a quasi-independent institution.  But that’s also why we’ve got to make sure that it is doing its job scrupulously and without even a hint of bias, or a hint that somehow they’re favoring one group over another.

And, as I said yesterday, I’m outraged by this in part because, look, I’m a public figure — if a future administration is starting to use the tax laws to favor one party over another or one political view over another, obviously we’re all vulnerable.  And that’s why, as I’ve said, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you should be equally outraged at even the prospect that the IRS might not be acting with the kind of complete neutrality that we expect.

And I think we’re going to be able to fix it.  We’re going to be able to get it done, and we’ve already begun that progress and we’re going to keep on going until it’s finished.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’d like to ask you about the Justice Department.  Do you believe that the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists this week — or before that was announced recently this week was an overreach?  And do you still have full confidence in your Attorney General?  Should we interpret yesterday’s renewed interest by the White House in a media shield law as a response to that?  And, more broadly, how do you feel about comparisons by some of your critics of this week’s scandals to those that happened under the Nixon administration?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I’ll let you guys engage in those comparisons and you can go ahead and read the history I think and draw your own conclusions.

My concern is making sure that if there’s a problem in the government that we fix it.  That’s my responsibility, and that’s what we’re going to do.  That’s true with respect to the IRS and making sure that they apply the laws the way they were intended. That’s true with respect to the security of our diplomats, which is why we’re going to need to work with Congress to make sure that there’s adequate funding for what’s necessary out there.

Now, with respect to the Department of Justice, I’m not going to comment on a specific and pending case.  But I can talk broadly about the balance that we have to strike.  Leaks related to national security can put people at risk.  They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk.

U.S. national security is dependent on those folks being able to operate with confidence that folks back home have their backs, so they’re not just left out there high and dry, and potentially put in even more danger than they may already be.  And so I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as Commander-in-Chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.

Now, the flip side of it is we also live in a democracy where a free press, free expression, and the open flow of information helps hold me accountable, helps hold our government accountable, and helps our democracy function.  And the whole reason I got involved in politics is because I believe so deeply in that democracy and that process.

So the whole goal of this media shield law — that was worked on and largely endorsed by folks like The Washington Post Editorial Page and by prosecutors — was finding a way to strike that balance appropriately.  And to the extent that this case, which we still don’t know all the details of — to the extent that this case has prompted renewed interest about how do we strike that balance properly, then I think now is the time for us to go ahead and revisit that legislation.  I think that’s a worthy conversation to have, and I think that’s important.

But I also think it’s important to recognize that when we express concern about leaks at a time when I’ve still got 60,000-plus troops in Afghanistan, and I’ve still got a whole bunch of intelligence officers around the world who are in risky situations — in outposts that, in some cases, are as dangerous as the outpost in Benghazi — that part of my job is to make sure that we’re protecting what they do, while still accommodating for the need for information — or the need for the public to be informed and be able to hold my office accountable.

Q    I asked about Holder as well.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Mr. Prime Minister, just excuse me — you’re right, I have complete confidence in Eric Holder as Attorney General.  He’s an outstanding Attorney General and does his job with integrity, and I expect he will continue to do so.

Q    Mr. President, my first question is to you.  You mentioned that Assad should go, and the question is how and when. Is there a rough timetable?  And shall we be talking about the Syrian tragedy next year at this time?  What’s the idea?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  We would have preferred Assad go two years ago; last year; six months ago; two months ago.  And there has been consistency on the part of my administration that Assad lost legitimacy when he started firing on his own people and killing his own people, who initially were protesting peacefully for a greater voice in their country’s affairs.  And obviously that’s escalated during the course of time.  So the answer is the sooner the better.

Now, in terms of the question how, I think we’ve already discussed that.  There’s no magic formula for dealing with a extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria’s.  If there was, I think the Prime Minister and I would have already acted on it and it would already be finished.

And instead, what we have to do is apply steady international pressure, strengthen the opposition.  I do think that the prospect of talks in Geneva involving the Russians and representatives about a serious political transition that all the parties can buy into may yield results.  But in the meantime, we’re going to continue to make sure that we’re helping the opposition, and obviously dealing with the humanitarian situation.  And we’ll do so in close consultation with Turkey, which obviously is deeply invested in this and with whom we’ve got an outstanding relationship with.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:   Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Thank you, guys.

END
1:26 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 15, 2013: Full Text of Benghazi Emails Released by the White House

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

White House Releases Benghazi Emails

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-15-13

READ full text of the Benghazi emails, document HERE

After months of demands from Republicans in Congress, the White House has released emails related to statements by the administration in the days after the terrorist attack in Benghazi.

The emails confirm that the so-called “talking points” written by the CIA on the attack underwent extensive revisions — 12 versions — and that substantial changes were made after the State Department expressed concerns….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 14, 2013: White House Dodges Queries on IRS & Justice Department Controversies

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Facing Controversies, White House Dodges Queries

Source: NYT, 5-14-13

The press secretary, Jay Carney, deflected questions about the seizure of journalists’ telephone records and allegations that the I.R.S targeted conservative groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 11, 2013: West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-11-13

The West Wing of the White House was evacuated early Saturday morning due to an overheated transformer.

“Early this morning, an electrical transformer near the West Wing malfunctioned and set off a smoke alarm in the West Wing. The transformer problem was quickly resolved,” a White House official told ABC News. “Electricity and personnel access to the West Wing has returned to normal. The First Family was unaffected.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 11, 2013: White House West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-11-13

The West Wing of the White House was evacuated early Saturday morning due to an overheated transformer.

“Early this morning, an electrical transformer near the West Wing malfunctioned and set off a smoke alarm in the West Wing. The transformer problem was quickly resolved,” a White House official told ABC News. “Electricity and personnel access to the West Wing has returned to normal. The First Family was unaffected.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s White House Press Conference on the 100th Day of His Second Term — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Barack Obama’s White House Press Conference April 30, 2013 (Transcript)

Source: Time, 4-30-13

U.S. President Barack Obama responds at a press conference in the Brady Press Breifing Room at the White House in Washington DC, on April 30, 2013.

SHAWN THEW / EPA

U.S. President Barack Obama responds at a press conference in the Brady Press Breifing Room at the White House in Washington DC, on April 30, 2013.

Remarks Provided by the White House Press Office

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon — or good morning, everybody. I am here to answer questions in honor of Ed Henry, as he wraps up his tenure as president of the White House Correspondents Association.

Ed, because of that, you get the first question. Congratulations.

Q Thank you, sir, I really appreciate that. And I hope we can go back to business and being mad at each other a little bit. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not mad at you.

Q Okay, good. Thank you, I appreciate that.

THE PRESIDENT: You may be mad at me. (Laughter.)

Q I’m not. A couple of questions on national security. On Syria, you said that the red line was not just about chemical weapons being used but being spread, and it was a game-changer — it seemed cut and dry. And now your administration seems to be suggesting that line is not clear. Do you risk U.S. credibility if you don’t take military action?

And then on Benghazi, there are some survivors of that terror attack who say they want to come forward and testify — some in your State Department — and they say they’ve been blocked. Will you allow them to testify? 

THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, on Syria, I think it’s important to understand that for several years now what we’ve been seeing is a slowly unfolding disaster for the Syrian people. And this is not a situation in which we’ve been simply bystanders to what’s been happening. My policy from the beginning has been that President Assad had lost credibility, that he attacked his own people, has killed his own people, unleashed a military against innocent civilians, and that the only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is going to be for Assad to step down and to move forward on a political transition.

In pursuit of that strategy we’ve organized the international community. We are the largest humanitarian donor. We have worked to strengthen the opposition. We have provided nonlethal assistance to the opposition. We have applied sanctions on Syria. So there are a whole host of steps that we’ve been taking precisely because, even separate from the chemical weapons issue, what’s happening in Syria is a blemish on the international community generally, and we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect the Syrian people.

In that context, what I’ve also said is that the use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer not simply for the United States but for the international community. And the reason for that is that we have established international law and international norms that say when you use these kinds of weapons you have the potential of killing massive numbers of people in the most inhumane way possible, and the proliferation risks are so significant that we don’t want that genie out of the bottle. So when I said that the use of chemical weapons would be a game-changer, that wasn’t unique to — that wasn’t a position unique to the United States and it shouldn’t have been a surprise.

And what we now have is evidence that chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria, but we don’t know how they were used, when they were used, who used them. We don’t have a chain of custody that establishes what exactly happened. And when I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts. That’s what the American people would expect.

And if we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence, then we can find ourselves in a position where we can’t mobilize the international community to support what we do. There may be objections even among some people in the region who are sympathetic with the opposition if we take action. So it’s important for us to do this in a prudent way.

And what I’ve said to my team is we’ve got to do everything we can to investigate and establish with some certainty what exactly has happened in Syria, what is happening in Syria. We will use all the assets and resources that we have at our disposal. We’ll work with the neighboring countries to see whether we can establish a clear baseline of facts. And we’ve also called on the United Nations to investigate.

But the important point I want to make here is that we already are deeply engaged in trying to bring about a solution in Syria. It is a difficult problem. But even if chemical weapons were not being used in Syria, we’d still be thinking about tens of thousands of people, innocent civilians — women, children — who’ve been killed by a regime that’s more concerned about staying in power than it is about the well-being of its people.

And so we are already deeply invested in trying to find a solution here.

What is true, though, is, is that if I can establish in a way that not only the United States but also the international community feel confident is the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime, then that is a game-changer because what that portends is potentially even more devastating attacks on civilians, and it raises the strong possibility that those chemical weapons can fall into the wrong hands and get disseminated in ways that would threaten U.S. security or the security of our allies.

Q By game-changer you mean U.S. military action?

THE PRESIDENT: By game-changer I mean that we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us.

Now, we’re already, as I’ve said, invested in trying to bring about a solution inside of Syria. Obviously, there are options that are available to me that are on the shelf right now that we have not deployed. And that’s a spectrum of options. As early as last year, I asked the Pentagon, our military, our intelligence officials to prepare for me what options might be available. And I won’t go into the details of what those options might be, but clearly that would be an escalation, in our view, of the threat to the security of the international community, our allies, and the United States, and that means that there are some options that we might not otherwise exercise that we would strongly consider.

Q And on the Benghazi portion, I know pieces of this story have been litigated, you’ve been asked about it. But there are people in your own State Department saying they’ve been blocked from coming forward, that they survived the terror attack and they want to tell their story. Will you help them come forward and just say it once and for all?

THE PRESIDENT: Ed, I’m not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying. So what I’ll do is I will find out what exactly you’re referring to. What I’ve been very clear about from the start is that our job with respect to Benghazi has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies not just in the Middle East but around the world are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice.

But I’ll find out what exactly you’re referring to.

Q They’ve hired an attorney because they’re saying that they’ve been blocked from coming forward.

THE PRESIDENT: I’m not familiar with it.

Jessica.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. There’s a report that your Director of National Intelligence has ordered a broad review — this is regards to the Boston Marathon bombing — that your DNI has ordered a broad review of all the intelligence-gathering prior to the attack. There is also a series of senators — Susan Collins, Saxby Chambliss, Lindsey Graham — who allege that all these years after 9/11, there still wasn’t enough intelligence shared prior to the attack. And now, Lindsey Graham, who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, has said that Benghazi and Boston are both examples of the U.S. going backwards on national security. Is he right? And did our intelligence miss something?

THE PRESIDENT: No, Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I’m sure generated some headlines.

I think that what we saw in Boston was state, local, federal officials, every agency rallying around a city that had been attacked — identifying the perpetrators just hours after the scene had been examined. We now have one individual deceased, one in custody. Charges have been brought.

I think that all our law enforcement officials performed in an exemplary fashion after the bombing had taken place. And we should be very proud of their work, as obviously we’re proud of the people of Boston and all the first responders and the medical personnel that helped save lives.

What we also know is that the Russian intelligence services had alerted U.S. intelligence about the older brother, as well as the mother, indicating that they might be sympathizers to extremists. The FBI investigated that older brother. It’s not as if the FBI did nothing. They not only investigated the older brother, they interviewed the older brother. They concluded that there were no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity. So that much we know.

And the question then is was there something that happened that triggered radicalization and an actual decision by the brother to engage in the tragic attack we actually saw in Boston, and are there additional things that could have been done in that interim that might have prevented it.

Now, what Director Clapper is doing is standard procedure around here, which is when an event like this happens we want to go back and we want to review every step that was taken. We want to leave no stone unturned. We want to see, is there, in fact, additional protocols and procedures that could be put in place that would further improve and enhance our ability to detect a potential attack? And we won’t know that until that review is completed. We won’t know that until the investigation of the actual crime is fully completed. And that’s still ongoing.

But what I can say is that based on what I’ve seen so far, the FBI performed its duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it was supposed to be doing.

But this is hard stuff. And I’ve said for quite some time that because of the pressure that we put on al Qaeda core, because of the pressure that we’ve put on these networks that are well-financed and more sophisticated and can engage in and project transnational threats against the United States, one of the dangers that we now face are self-radicalized individuals who are already here in the United States — in some cases, may not be part of any kind of network, but because of whatever warped, twisted ideas they may have, may decide to carry out an attack. And those are in some ways more difficult to prevent.

And so what I’ve done for months now is to indicate to our entire counterterrorism team, what more can we do on that threat that is looming on the horizon? Are there more things that we can do, whether it’s engaging with communities where there’s a potential for self-radicalization of this sort? Is there work that can be done in terms of detection? But all of this has to be done in the context of our laws, due process.

And so part of what Director Clapper is doing, then, is going to be to see if we can determine any lessons learned from what happened.

Q Are you getting all the intelligence and information you need from the Russians? And should Americans be worried when they go to big, public events now? 

THE PRESIDENT: The Russians have been very cooperative with us since the Boston bombing. Obviously, old habits die hard; there are still suspicions sometimes between our intelligence and law enforcement agencies that date back 10, 20, 30 years, back to the Cold War. But they’re continually improving. I’ve spoken to President Putin directly. He’s committed to working with me to make sure that those who report to us are cooperating fully in not only this investigation, but how do we work on counterterrorism issues generally.

In terms of the response of the American people, I think everybody can take a cue from Boston. You don’t get a sense that anybody is intimidated when they go to Fenway Park a couple days after the bombing. There are joggers right now, I guarantee you, all throughout Boston and Cambridge and Watertown. And I think one of the things that I’ve been most proud of in watching the country’s response to the terrible tragedy there, is a sense of resilience and toughness, and we’re not going to be intimidated. We are going to live our lives.

And people, I think, understand that we’ve got to do everything we can to prevent these kinds of attacks from taking place, but people also understand — in the same way they understand after a shooting in Aurora or Newtown or Virginia Tech, or after the foiled attempts in Times Square or in Detroit — that we’re not going to stop living our lives because warped, twisted individuals try to intimidate us. We’re going to do what we do — which is go to work, raise our kids, go to ball games, run in marathons. And at the same time, we’re going to make sure that everybody is cooperating and is vigilant in doing everything we can, without being naïve, to try to prevent these attacks from happening in the future.

Jonathan Karl.

Q Mr. President, you are a hundred days into your second term. On the gun bill, you put, it seems, everything into it to try to get it passed. Obviously, it didn’t. Congress has ignored your efforts to try to get them to undo these sequester cuts. There’s even a bill that you threatened to veto that got 92 Democrats in the House voting yes. So my question to you is do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?

THE PRESIDENT: If you put it that way, Jonathan — (laughter) — maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly.

I think it’s a little — as Mark Twain said, rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point.

We understand that we’re in a divided government right now. The Republicans control the House of Representatives. In the Senate, this habit of requiring 60 votes for even the most modest piece of legislation has gummed up the works there. And I think it comes as no surprise not even to the American people, but even members of Congress themselves that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill.

Despite that, I’m actually confident that there are a range of things that we’re going to be able to get done. I feel confident that the bipartisan work that’s been done on immigration reform will result in a bill that passes the Senate, passes the House, and gets on my desk. And that’s going to be a historic achievement. And I’ve been very complimentary of the efforts of both Republicans and Democrats in those efforts.

It is true that the sequester is in place right now. It’s damaging our economy. It’s hurting our people. And we need to lift it. What’s clear is, is that the only way we’re going to lift it is if we do a bigger deal that meets the test of lowering our deficit and growing our economy at the same time. And that’s going to require some compromises on the part of both Democrats and Republicans.

I’ve had some good conversations with Republican senators so far. Those conversations are continuing. I think there’s a genuine desire on many of their parts to move past not only sequester but Washington dysfunction. Whether we can get it done or not, we’ll see.

But I think the sequester is a good example — or this recent FAA issue is a good example. You will recall that even as recently as my campaign, Republicans we’re saying, sequester is terrible, this is a disaster, it’s going to ruin our military, it’s going to be disastrous for the economy — we’ve got to do something about it. Then, when it was determined that doing something about it might mean that we close some tax loopholes for the wealthy and the well-connected, suddenly, well, you know what, we’ll take the sequester. And the notion was somehow that we had exaggerated the effects of the sequester — remember? The President is crying wolf. He’s Chicken Little. The sequester — no problem.

And then in rapid succession, suddenly White House tours — this is terrible! How can we let that happen? Meat inspectors — we’ve got to fix that. And, most recently, what are we going to do about potential delays at airports?

So despite the fact that a lot of members of Congress were suggesting that somehow the sequester was a victory for them and this wouldn’t hurt the economy, what we now know is what I warned earlier, what Jay stood up here and warned repeatedly, is happening. It’s slowed our growth. It’s resulting in people being thrown out of work. And it’s hurting folks all across the country.

And the fact that Congress responded to the short-term problem of flight delays by giving us the option of shifting money that’s designed to repair and improve airports over the long term to fix the short-term problem — well, that’s not a solution. And essentially what we’ve done is we’ve said, in order to avoid delays this summer, we’re going to ensure delays for the next two or three decades.

Q Why’d you go along with it?

THE PRESIDENT: Hold on a second.

So the alternative, of course, is either to go ahead and impose a whole bunch of delays on passengers now — which also does not fix the problem — or the third alternative is to actually fix the problem by coming up with a broader, larger deal.

But, Jonathon, you seem to suggest that somehow these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave. That’s their job. They’re elected — members of Congress are elected in order to do what’s right for their constituencies and for the American people.

So if, in fact, they are seriously concerned about passenger convenience and safety, then they shouldn’t just be thinking about tomorrow or next week or the week after that; they should be thinking about what’s going to happen five years from now, 10 years from now, or 15 years from now. The only way to do that is for them to engage with me on coming up with a broader deal. And that’s exactly what I’m trying to do — is to continue to talk to them about are there ways for us to fix this.

Frankly, I don’t think that if I were to veto, for example, this FAA bill, that that somehow would lead to the broader fix. It just means that there would be pain now, which they would try to blame on me, as opposed to pain five years from now. But either way, the problem is not getting fixed.

The only way the problem does get fixed is if both parties sit down and they say: How are we going to make sure that we’re reducing our deficit sensibly? How are we making sure that we’re investing in things like rebuilding our airports and our roads and our bridges, and investing in early childhood education, basic research — all the things that are going to help us grow? And that’s what the American people want.

Just one interesting statistic when it comes to airports. There was a recent survey of the top airports in the country — in the world, and there was not a single U.S. airport that came in the top 25. Not one. Not one U.S. airport was considered by the experts and consumers who use these airports to be in the top 25 in the world. I think Cincinnati Airport came in around 30th.

What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future? And so when folks say, well, there was some money in the FAA to deal with these furloughs — well, yeah, the money is this pool of funds that are supposed to try to upgrade our airports so we don’t rank in the bottom of industrialized countries when it comes to our infrastructure.

And that’s what we’re doing — we’re using our seed corn short term. And the only reason we’re doing it is because right now we’ve got folks who are unwilling to make some simple changes to our tax code, for example, to close loopholes that aren’t adding to our competitiveness and aren’t helping middle-class families.

So that’s a long way of answering your question, but the point is that there are common-sense solutions to our problems right now. I cannot force Republicans to embrace those common-sense solutions. I can urge them to. I can put pressure on them. I can rally the American people around those common-sense solutions. But ultimately, they, themselves, are going to have to say, we want to do the right thing.

And I think there are members certainly in the Senate right now, and I suspect members in the House as well, who understand that deep down. But they’re worried about their politics. It’s tough. Their base thinks that compromise with me is somehow a betrayal. They’re worried about primaries. And I understand all that. And we’re going to try to do everything we can to create a permission structure for them to be able to do what’s going to be best for the country. But it’s going to take some time.

Bill Plante.

Q Mr. President, as you’re probably aware, there’s a growing hunger strike on Guantanamo Bay among prisoners there. Is it any surprise really that they would prefer death rather than have no end in sight to their confinement?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it is not a surprise to me that we’ve got problems in Guantanamo, which is why when I was campaigning in 2007 and 2008, and when I was elected in 2008, I said we need to close Guantanamo. I continue to believe that we’ve got to close Guantanamo.

Q — can do it?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.

Now, Congress determined that they would not let us close it — and despite the fact that there are a number of the folks who are currently in Guantanamo who the courts have said could be returned to their country of origin or potentially a third country.

I’m going to go back at this. I’ve asked my team to review everything that’s currently being done in Guantanamo, everything that we can do administratively. And I’m going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interest of the American people. And it’s not sustainable.

The notion that we’re going to continue to keep over a hundred individuals in a no-man’s land in perpetuity, even at a time when we’ve wound down the war in Iraq, we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan, we’re having success defeating al Qaeda core, we’ve kept the pressure up on all these transnational terrorist networks, when we’ve transferred detention authority in Afghanistan — the idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.

Now, it’s a hard case to make because I think for a lot of Americans the notion is out of sight, out of mind. And it’s easy to demagogue the issue. That’s what happened the first time this came up. I’m going to go back at it because I think it’s important.

Q Meanwhile we continue to force-feed these folks…

THE PRESIDENT: I don’t want these individuals to die. Obviously, the Pentagon is trying to manage the situation as best as they can. But I think all of us should reflect on why exactly are we doing this? Why are we doing this? We’ve got a whole bunch of individuals who have been tried who are currently in maximum security prisons around the country. Nothing has happened to them. Justice has been served. It’s been done in a way that’s consistent with our Constitution, consistent with due process, consistent with rule of law, consistent with our traditions.

The individual who attempted to bomb Times Square — in prison, serving a life sentence. The individual who tried to bomb a plane in Detroit — in prison, serving a life sentence. A Somali who was part of Al-Shabaab, who we captured — in prison. So we can handle this.

And I understand that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, with the traumas that had taken place, why, for a lot of Americans, the notion was somehow that we had to create a special facility like Guantanamo and we couldn’t handle this in a normal, conventional fashion. I understand that reaction. But we’re now over a decade out. We should be wiser. We should have more experience in how we prosecute terrorists.

And this is a lingering problem that is not going to get better. It’s going to get worse. It’s going to fester. And so I’m going to, as I said before, examine every option that we have administratively to try to deal with this issue, but ultimately we’re also going to need some help from Congress, and I’m going to ask some folks over there who care about fighting terrorism but also care about who we are as a people to step up and help me on it.

Chuck Todd.

Q Mr. President, thank you. Max Baucus, Democratic Senator, referred to the implementation as your health care law as a potential train wreck. And other Democrats have been whispering nervousness about the implementation and the impact — and it’s all self-centered a little bit — the impact that it might have on their own political campaigns in 2014. Why do you think — just curious — why does Senator Baucus, somebody who ostensibly helped write your bill, believe that this is going to be a train wreck? And why do you believe he’s wrong?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that any time you’re implementing something big, there’s going to be people who are nervous and anxious about is it going to get done, until it’s actually done.

But let’s just step back for a second and make sure the American people understand what it is that we’re doing. The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — has now been with us for three years. It’s gone through Supreme Court tests. It’s gone through efforts to repeal. A huge chunk of it has already been implemented. And for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they’re already experiencing most of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act even if they don’t know it. Their insurance is more secure. Insurance companies can’t drop them for bad reasons. Their kids are able to stay on their health insurance until they’re 26 years old. They’re getting free preventive care.

So there are a whole host of benefits that, for the average American out there, for the 85 to 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing has already happened. And their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better, more secure than it was before. Full stop. That’s it. They don’t have to worry about anything else.

The implementation issues come in for those who don’t have health insurance — maybe because they have a preexisting condition and the only way they can get health insurance is to go out on the individual market, and they’re paying 50 percent or 100 percent more than those of us who are lucky enough to have group plans; people who are too poor to get health insurance and the employers don’t offer them. Maybe they work for a small business and this small business can’t afford right now to provide health insurance.

So all the implementation issues that are coming up are implementation issues related to that small group of people, 10 to 15 percent of Americans — now, it’s still 30 million Americans, but a relatively narrow group — who don’t have health insurance right now, or are on the individual market and are paying exorbitant amounts for coverage that isn’t that great.

And what we’re doing is we’re setting up a pool so that they can all pool together and get a better deal from insurance companies. And those who can’t afford it, we’re going to provide them with some subsidies. That’s it. I mean, that’s what’s left to implement, because the other stuff has been implemented and it’s working fine.

The challenge is that setting up a market-based system, basically an online marketplace where you can go on and sign up and figure out what kind of insurance you can afford and figuring out how to get the subsidies — that’s still a big, complicated piece of business. And when you’re doing it nationwide, relatively fast, and you’ve got half of Congress who is determined to try to block implementation and not adequately funding implementation, and then you’ve got a number of members of — or governors — Republican governors — who know that it’s bad politics for them to try to implement this effectively, and some even who have decided to implement it and then their Republican-controlled state legislatures say, don’t implement, and won’t pass enabling legislation — when you have that kind of situation, that makes it harder.

But having said all that, we’ve got a great team in place. We are pushing very hard to make sure that we’re hitting all the deadlines and the benchmarks.

I’ll give you an example, a recent example. We put together, initially, an application form for signing up for participation in the exchanges that was initially about 21 pages long, and immediately everybody sat around the table and said, well, this is too long. Especially in this age of the Internet, people aren’t going to have the patience to sit there for hours on end. Let’s streamline this thing. So we cut what was a 21-page form now down to a form that’s about three pages for an individual, a little more than that for a family — well below the industry average. So those kinds of refinements we’re going to continue to be working on.

But I think the main message I want to give to the American people here is, despite all the hue and cry and “sky is falling” predictions about this stuff, if you’ve already got health insurance, then that part of Obamacare that affects you, it’s pretty much already in place. And that’s about 85 percent of the country.

What is left to be implemented is those provisions to help the 10 to 15 percent of the American public that is unlucky enough that they don’t have health insurance. And by the way, some of you who have health insurance right now, at some point you may lose your health insurance, and if you’ve got a preexisting condition, this structure will make sure that you are not left vulnerable.

But it’s still a big undertaking. And what we’re doing is making sure that every single day we are constantly trying to hit our marks so that it will be in place.

And the last point I’ll make — even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps, and there will be stories that can be written that say, oh, look, this thing is not working the way it’s supposed to, and this happened and that happened. And that’s pretty much true of every government program that’s ever been set up. But if we stay with it and we understand what our long-term objective is — which is making sure that in a country as wealthy as ours, nobody should go bankrupt if they get sick, and that we would rather have people getting regular checkups than going to the emergency room because they don’t have health care — if we keep that in mind, then we’re going to be able to drive down costs; we’re going to be able to improve efficiencies in the system; we’re going to be able to see people benefit from better health care. And that will save the country money as a whole over the long term.

Q Do you believe, without the cooperation of a handful of governors, particularly large states like Florida and Texas, that you can fully implement this?

THE PRESIDENT: I think it’s harder. There’s no doubt about it.

Q But can you do it without them?

THE PRESIDENT: We will implement it. There will be — we have a backup federal exchange. If states aren’t cooperating, we set up a federal exchange so that people can access that federal exchange.

But, yes, it puts more of a burden on us. And it’s ironic, since all these folks say that they believe in empowering states, that they’re going to end up having the federal government do something that we’d actually prefer states to do if they were properly cooperating.

Let’s see how we’re doing on time here. Last question. Antonieta Cadiz — where’s Antonieta? There you are. Tell those big guys to get out of your way. (Laughter.)

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions. There are concerns about how the immigration bill from the House has complicated chances for immigration reform in the Senate. It seems to be a more conservative proposal. Is there room for a more conservative proposal than the one presented in the Senate? That’s immigration.

Second, on Mexico — yesterday, the Mexican government said all contact with the U.S. law enforcement will now go through a single door, the Federal Interior Ministry. Is this change good for the U.S. relationship with Mexico? Do you think the level of security and cooperation can be maintained?

THE PRESIDENT: On immigration reform, I’ve been impressed by the work that was done by the Gang of Eight in the Senate. The bill that they produced is not the bill that I would have written, there are elements of it that I would change, but I do think that it meets the basic criteria that I laid out from the start, which is: We’ve got to have more effective border security — although it should build on the great improvements that have been made on border security over the last four to five years. We should make sure that we are cracking down on employers that are gaming the system. We should make the legal immigration system work more effectively so that the waits are not as burdensome, the bureaucracy is not as complicated, so that we can continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world to our shores in a legal fashion. And we want to make sure that we’ve got a pathway to citizenship that is tough, but allows people to earn over time their legal status here in this country.

And the Senate bill meets those criteria — in some cases not in the way that I would, but it meets those basic criteria. And I think it’s a testament to the senators that were involved that they made some tough choices and made some tough compromises in order to hammer out that bill.

Now, I haven’t seen what members of the House are yet proposing. And maybe they think that they can answer some of those questions differently or better. And I think we’ve got to be open-minded in seeing what they come up with. The bottom line, though, is, is that they’ve still got to meet those basic criteria: Is it making the border safer? Is it dealing with employers in how they work with the government to make sure that people are not being taken advantage of, or taking advantage of the system? Are we improving our legal immigration system? And are we creating a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million or so who are undocumented in this country?

And if they meet those criteria but they’re slightly different than the Senate bill, then I think that we should be able to come up with an appropriate compromise. If it doesn’t meet those criteria, then I will not support such a bill. So we’ll have to wait and see.

When it comes to Mexico, I’m very much looking forward to taking the trip down to Mexico to see the new President, Peña Nieto. I had a chance to meet him here, but this will be the first, more extensive consultations and it will be an opportunity for his ministers, my Cabinet members who are participating to really hammer out some of these issues.

A lot of the focus is going to be on economics. We’ve spent so much time on security issues between the United States and Mexico that sometimes I think we forget this is a massive trading partner responsible for huge amounts of commerce and huge numbers of jobs on both sides of the border. We want to see how we can deepen that, how we can improve that and maintain that economic dialogue over a long period of time.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to be talking about security. I think that in my first conversation with the President, he indicated to me that he very much continues to be concerned about how we can work together to deal with transnational drug cartels. We’ve made great strides in the coordination and cooperation between our two governments over the last several years. But my suspicion is, is that things can be improved.

And some of the issues that he’s talking about really had to do with refinements and improvements in terms of how Mexican authorities work with each other, how they coordinate more effectively, and it has less to do with how they’re dealing with us, per se. So I’m not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I’ve heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish.

But, overall, what I can say is that my impression is, is that the new President is serious about reform. He’s already made some tough decisions. I think he’s going to make more that will improve the economy and security of Mexican citizens, and that will improve the bilateral relationship as well.

And I don’t want to leave out that we’re also going to be talking to, during my visit to Costa Rica, Presidents of Central American countries, many of whom are struggling with both economic issues and security issues, but are important partners for us — because I think that the vision here is that we want to make sure that our hemisphere is more effectively integrated to improve the economy and security of all people. That’s good for the United States. That will enhance our economy. That can improve our energy independence.

There are a whole range of opportunities, and that’s going to be the purpose of this trip. And I’m sure that those of you who will have the chance to travel with me we’ll have a chance to discuss this further.

All right? Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you, guys.

Q Jason Collins? Do you want to say anything about it?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’ll say something about Jason Collins. I had a chance to talk to him yesterday. He seems like a terrific young man. And I told him I couldn’t be prouder of him.

One of the extraordinary measures of progress that we’ve seen in this country has been the recognition that the LGBT community deserves full equality — not just partial equality, not just tolerance, but a recognition that they’re fully a part of the American family.

And given the importance of sports in our society, for an individual who has excelled at the highest levels in one of the major sports to go ahead and say, this is who I am, I’m proud of it, I’m still a great competitor, I’m still seven foot tall and can bang with Shaq — (laughter) — and deliver a hard foul — and for I think a lot of young people out there who are gay or lesbian who are struggling with these issues, to see a role model like that who is unafraid, I think it’s a great thing.

And I think America should be proud that this is just one more step in this ongoing recognition that we treat everybody fairly, and everybody is part of a family, and we judge people on the basis of their character and their performance and not their sexual orientation. So I’m very proud of him.

Political Headlines April 29, 2013: President Barack Obama Meets 7-Year-Old Cancer Patient Turned Football Star Jack Hoffman at the White House Oval Office

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

7-Year-Old Cancer Patient Turned Football Star Meets Obama

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-29-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Jack Hoffman, the Nebraska boy who captured national attention after running a ceremonial 69-yard touchdown during a University of Nebraska spring football game earlier this month, visited the White House on Monday.

The 7-year-old, who is battling pediatric brain cancer, met with President Obama for about 15 minutes in the Oval Office….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 16, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Boston Bombings in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House: “The American People Refuse to be Terrorized”

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama: “The American People Refuse to be Terrorized”

Source: WH, 4-16-13

President Obama Delivers a Statement on the bombs in Boston, April 16, 2013President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the explosions that occurred in Boston, in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, April 16, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Following a briefing from FBI Director Mueller, Attorney General Holder, Secretary Napolitano, and homeland security advisor Lisa Monaco, President Obama went to the Brady Press Briefing Room to update Americans on developments in Boston, following two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday afternoon.

“We continue to mobilize and deploy all appropriate law enforcement resources to protect our citizens, and to investigate and to respond to this attack,” the President said in a televised address. “Obviously our first thoughts this morning are with the victims, their families, and the city of Boston. We know that two explosions gravely wounded dozens of Americans, and took the lives of others, including a 8-year-old boy.

“This was a heinous and cowardly act. And given what we now know about what took place, the FBI is investigating it as an act of terrorism.  Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians it is an act of terror. What we don’t yet know, however, is who carried out this attack, or why; whether it was planned and executed by a terrorist organization, foreign or domestic, or was the act of a malevolent individual.”

The President assured the American people that while it will take time to determine what happened, “we will find whoever harmed our citizens. And we will bring them to justice.”

In addition to highlighting the tremendous acts of heroism by the men and women of the FBI, the Boston Police Department, and other agencies and first responders yesterday, the President praised the kindness, generosity and love that was on display throughout the city of Boston in the aftermath of the bombings. “if you want to know who we are, what America is, how we respond to evil — that’s it. Selflessly. Compassionately. Unafraid.”

You can watch the President’s complete statement on YouTube


Learn more:

Full Text Obama Presidency April 16, 2013: Readout of the President Barack Obama’s Briefing on the Boston Bombings

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Readout of the President’s Briefing on the Explosions in Boston

Source: WH, 4-16-13

This morning the President, joined by Vice President Biden, convened a briefing in the Oval Office with his national security team on the ongoing investigation into the explosions in Boston. Participating in the briefing was Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jake Sullivan.

In the briefing, which was led by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, the President received an update from Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Mueller on the collaborative efforts underway as part of the investigation, including the agency’s close coordination with state and local law enforcement in Boston. The President also received an update from Secretary Napolitano on coordination underway between DHS and state and local partners across the country to share information, including any additional security steps state and local law enforcement may take.

A photo of the briefing can be found HERE.

Political Headlines April 10, 2013: President Barack Obama unveils $3.77 trillion budget proposal

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama unveils $3.77 trillion budget proposal

Source: WaPo, 4-10-13

(JIM LO SCALZO / EPA)

Spending plan would cut more than $1 trillion from programs across the government in an effort to persuade congressional Republicans to join him in the job of cutting the federal debt….READ MORE

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