|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the London Eleven Plenary Meeting
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the London Eleven Plenary meeting in Amman, Jordan on May 22, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209822.htm.
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8:32 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. I have to say that as the podium came out, which meant that was my cue, my mother-in-law said, "Oh, shoot." (Laughter.) True story -- she was getting into the music. (Laughter.) Welcome to the White House, everybody.
I want to start by thanking all the incredible artists who have joined us to pay tribute to the one and only Carole King. (Applause.) I also want to thank Dr. James Billington and all the folks at the Library of Congress not just for making this event possible, but for the outstanding work that they do every day to preserve the very best of our culture for generations to come. (Applause.)
Of course, as we gather tonight to present this award, our thoughts and prayers remain with the wonderful people of Oklahoma. They have suffered mightily this week. And while the road ahead will be long, their country will be with them every single step of the way. That's who we are and that's how we treat our family and friends, and our neighbors wherever they are in the country. So we're going to help them recover. We're going to help them rebuild for as long as it takes. And eventually, life will go on and new memories will be made. New laughter will come. New songs will be sung.
And that's often why we turn to music during trying times -- for comfort and for inspiration, and sometimes just for a good diversion. George Gershwin, it was said, was a “man who lives in music,” who “expresses everything, serious or not, sound or superficial, by means of music, because it is his native language.” And I can't think of a better description of tonight's Gershwin Prize recipient, singer-songwriter Carole King.
By the age of four, Carole was already mastering the piano. By 15, she had already conducted her first orchestra. By 17, she had already written her first number one hit, which you've already heard -- “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” -- with Gerry Goffin. So at this point, all of you are feeling like underachievers. I understand. (Laughter.) It was pretty clear by this time that this promising young musician from New York -- who grew up not far from where George and Ira Gershwin were born -- was destined for similar heights.
Whether it was Little Eva telling us to do the "Loco-Motion" or Aretha Franklin belting out the anthem of "A Natural Woman" or James Taylor reminding us that even here in Washington, "You’ve got a friend" -- (laughter) -- for an entire decade, behind so many of the songs that touched our hearts, behind so many of the lyrics that stirred our soul there was Carole -- ever joyful, ever uplifting.
And then, in 1971, came the biggest break of all, when she showed the world that she couldn’t just write hit songs, she could sing them too. Her album -- “Tapestry” -- struck a chord with a whole new legion of fans, including me. It was the very first solo album by a female artist to reach Diamond status, meaning it sold more than 10 million copies. It was the first album by a female artist to win all the top Grammy awards for record, song, and album of the year, along with the Grammy for best pop vocal performance. And as one of the best-selling albums of all-time, it cemented Carole’s status as one of the most influential singer-songwriters that America has ever seen.
To date, Carole has written more than 400 compositions that have been recorded by over 1,000 artists, resulting in over 100 hits. She’s done everything from doo-wop to pop. She’s played with everyone from Bono to Babyface. (Laughter.) She’s been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And tonight, she’s still reaching new heights, becoming the first female artist to win the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (Applause.)
As Carole tells it, the secret to her success is that “I try to get out of the way and let the process be guided by whatever is driving me.” That’s what makes her songs so personal and so powerful, so enduring. Like the Gershwins, it’s not just that Carole lives the music. It’s that music lives in her.
So tonight, it is my great pleasure to present America’s highest award for popular music to a living legend, Carole King. (Applause.)
8:38 P.M. EDT
Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s Meeting with Russian Security Council Secretary Patrushev
President Obama joined National Security Advisor Tom Donilon’s meeting today with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolay Patrushev. The President expressed appreciation for President Putin’s condolences and offer of assistance in the wake of the Oklahoma tornado. The President reaffirmed his desire to strengthen the bilateral relationship, including U.S.-Russian economic ties. They also discussed the importance of deepening counterterrorism cooperation and the need for a negotiated political settlement in Syria. The President noted he looked forward to seeing President Putin in June at the G-8 Summit.
The President today made additional disaster assistance available to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians by authorizing an increase in the level of federal funding for Public Assistance projects undertaken by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians as a result of severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides during the period of January 14-17, 2013.
Under the President’s major disaster declaration issued for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on March 1, 2013, federal funding was made available for Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation at 75 percent federal funding of total eligible costs.
Under the President's order today, the federal share for Public Assistance has been increased to 90 percent of the total eligible costs.
Background Conference Call with Senior Administration Officials on Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden's Trip to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil
3:37 P.M. EDT
MS. TROTTER: Thanks, everyone, for joining today’s call. Our hope is to provide you with a more detailed sense of the Vice President and Dr. Biden’s schedule and goals during their trip next week to Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago and Brazil.
This call will be on background and our speakers are happy to take questions after they give some brief opening statements at the top. We’d like to keep this call as focused on the trip as much as possible and just remind everyone it’s one question per person.
With that I will turn it over to our first official who you can quote as a senior administration official.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Thanks, everyone, for joining the call. As you all know as this point, Vice President Biden will be making his fourth trip to the region next week since he became Vice President. And it follows on President Obama’s recent visit to Mexico and Costa Rica as our latest demonstration of the United States’ commitment to reinforcing our partnerships in the Americas.
It will also be our latest demonstration of an approach to engagement from the beginning that has been based on mutual respect and shared responsibility.
President Obama and Vice President Biden right from the outset of their time in office have made clear their view that the Americas represent a region of opportunity for the United States, and they're looking at the period that we’ve entered now as a time to really ramp up our engagement in the hemisphere in every part of the hemisphere, in Mexico, in Central America, the Caribbean and South America. And you will see a number of visits in the coming months, most immediately President Piñera of Chile and President Humala of Peru, and further travel by the Vice President to the region later in the year as well.
When we look to the Americas, we see a region that has reduced poverty by over 50 percent in the last decade and has seen tens of millions of people join the middle class. And I said earlier that we look at this as a region of opportunity, and it’s in no small part because the countries of the region are among our most important trading partners, and that's only becoming more true as time goes on. Our economies, our societies, our people are becoming more and more connected.
The Vice President gave remarks on May 8th to the Conference of the Americas at the State Department where he laid out the vision and the agenda for the administration’s approach to the hemisphere in the second term. And his sort of fundamental, underlying point was that our objective is to work with our partners across the hemisphere to promote a hemisphere that's middle class, secure and democratic. And that's the message that he’s going to be carrying with him when he goes on this trip next week.
Now, the countries that the Vice President is going to visit are all very different. But they each have governments that share our democratic values, that are focused on delivering for their citizens and on working as partners to advance common interests across the region and around the world. The countries of the Americas, including Colombia and Brazil, are playing an increasingly large and important role in global affairs, and that's just one more reason for why the hemisphere and the region are so important to U.S. interests.
So before going to your questions, I just want to take a minute to talk through the specifics of the Vice President’s itinerary and the purposes of each of the stops along the way. So he will depart Sunday for Bogota and will begin his trip in Colombia. On Monday, he’ll have the opportunity to meet with President Santos. And his visit to Bogota will be a chance to reaffirm the strength of our relationship with one of our most important partners in the Americas. It will allow us to highlight the remarkable progress on security in Colombia, both our support for President Santos’s efforts to bring an end to conflict in the Americas.
The Vice President last was in Colombia in 2000, so he will personally get to see the distance that Colombia has traveled over the last 13 years. He'll also have a chance to meet with people and business leaders who will demonstrate firsthand to him the importance of our commercial relationships in the years since our free trade agreement came into force.
In Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, the Vice President will meet with President Carmona and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar and participate in a meeting and working lunch with a number of other Caribbean leaders who have been invited by Trinidad and Tobago to a regional meeting with the Vice President.
And in that series of meetings, we anticipate good discussions on regional efforts to promote economic growth; on cooperation around citizen security; on energy issues, and other issues that are high on the priority list of our partners across the Caribbean.
Then on Wednesday, in Brazil, the Vice President will visit Rio de Janeiro, where he will have a public speaking event to help frame our view of Brazil at a strategic partner of the United States, and the trajectory of the U.S.-Brazil partnership as we head into the future. He will also tour a Petrobras site and discuss our energy cooperation, meeting with Petrobras officials and Brazilian officials to discuss issues related to the future of energy, both in Brazil and the United States and the global energy picture. And he will also have the opportunity to discuss with local leaders issues around security and social inclusion.
And then in Brasilia, on Friday, the Vice President will meet with President Rousseff and with Vice President Temer, and have a chance to talk about the architecture of the partnership that we’ve built together over the last four years, and then get down to the specifics in terms of the bilateral and global agenda that our two countries share moving forward.
It's our perspective that we've already accomplished a significant amount with Brazil, but we think there's much more that we can do together to promote the common interest and common values that we share.
So that gives you I think a lay-down of the trip over the course of next week, and as sense of the context in which it's taking place and the main purposes. And with that, we -- my colleague and I would be happy to take your questions.
Q I wanted to ask -- as you guys well know, President Xi of China is going to be right on the heels of Vice President Biden, particularly in Trinidad, but doing his own Latin American tour. And the Chinese tend to show up with a lot of deliverables, whether it's financing for a stadium or expanding financing for ports or roadways or whatever. What kind of deliverables does Vice President Biden bring to the region? Is there any concern that the Chinese showing up a few days later and perhaps making a lot of announcements about new investment in the region might undercut the perception of U.S. commitment to Latin America?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'll go ahead and address that question. So, first of all, we don't really see ourselves as being in competition with any particular actor in the Americas. There is of course a natural commercial competition that exists across the board in all countries.
And we're very pleased with the type of trade that we engage in throughout the Americas, a very diversified level of -- type of trade. It's a trade that emphasizes the value-added products from many countries throughout the region. So we're content on that -- and we're moving in a good direction. We do of course want to promote commercial growth and economic growth throughout. And that's been a big theme of this administration in its relations with the Americas.
With respect to our cooperation in the Caribbean, we have a very strong level of cooperation regarding energy, regarding the environment, regarding sustainable growth and economic growth and regarding citizen security. And these are all areas that have been signaled to us by our partners in the Caribbean as being very important to them. And we're very pleased to be able to continue that, that high level of cooperation.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just to add to what my colleague said, we will have specific steps forward in many of those areas that we'll discuss with our partners in the Caribbean on trade, on energy, on citizen security -- but we don't want to get ahead of ourselves here today in terms of what exactly it is that we'll be bringing to Trinidad and Tobago.
And, more broadly, I would say that our focus on a hemisphere that is middle class, secure and democratic is a fundamentally inclusive concept that looks to every country across the region and, frankly, partners outside the region who are prepared to contribute to that vision because we want to see things move forward in this hemisphere in a positive sum way, where everybody agrees on the objectives and works towards them and nobody undermines them.
Q There are two topics right now in the Brazil-United States relationship -- two topics right now the Brazilian government that is -- one, is the purchase of military airplanes in which an American company, Boeing, is interested. And this is a $5,000 -- million-dollar deal. And another one is visa waiver problems for tourists, for Brazilian tourists able to go to the United States without a visa. So I was wondering if that is going to be one of the topics in Vice President Biden's visit to Brazil.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I would say, first of all, the commercial relationship, the trade relationship with Brazil is going to be an important element not only of Vice President Biden's trip, but in our interaction with Brazil throughout. It has certainly been a big topic that has been raised by the Brazilian government in the last several years.
With respect to the FX-2 fighter competition, the United States government is fully committed to the technology transfer package that contained in the Boeing F-18 offer. I should say at the outset, we think it's the best product at the best price. We've been continuously engaging with the Brazilian government and supporting this effort, which we think is going to be not only important in itself with respect to Brazil's security objectives, but also as a way to foster good cooperation between Boeing, one of the leading aerospace companies, and Brazilian counterparts to create thousands of jobs in both countries. So in that respect, I think we're looking forward to discussing that.
With respect to the visa waiver issue, the United States and Brazil have a structured dialogue to talk about progress towards that objective. We also have interim measures such as global entry and other efforts intended to speed, to facilitate travel between the United States and Brazil. But I'd say the most important single confirmation of our commitment to speeding and facilitating travel is the work that we've done to reduce these waiting times for visas, which has been a spectacular reduction and can now be done within just a few days as opposed to several weeks, as was the case in the past. And, as a result, travel in both directions have increased, but especially travel from Brazil to the United States has increased dramatically.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just to underscore that, since the beginning of last year, the start of 2012, we have more than doubled our consular staff in Brazil. And even though demand is going up for visas to the United States, our wait times have dropped from 14 weeks to two days. So it shows the level of commitment that the United States has to ease the process by which Brazilians are able to travel to the United States for a range of purposes.
And on the issue of visa waiver and Global Entry and other things, as my colleague said, we will continue to discuss this intensively with the Brazilian government, because our fundamental objective is taking all the considerations into account to facilitate as much travel -- lawful travel, commerce, tourism and the like between Brazil and the United States. And we think what we've done so far has been pretty impressive; we want to build on it.
Q Thanks for the opportunity for to talk to you. You have said that the commercial relationship will be -- the commercial aspects. I'd like to talk about the political aspects a little bit, especially concerning the support from the -- U.S. support for permanent seat in the Security Council, which is something that Brazil aspires, and the U.S. has never given it to Brazil. Now, at least, Dilma will come as a state guest in a state visit. And the political support to Brazil seems to be increasing, but I wonder if this particular aspect of the Security Council will be in the agenda?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So I'm sure that there's going to be a broad range of multilateral architecture issues that are going to be on the agenda and that are going to be about the work that we're doing at the multilateral level -- not just at the U.N., but at the Organization of American States, at the G20, and at the U.N. Human Rights Council. So there's going to be a broad discussion about international architecture.
Certainly, as we've said, we appreciate Brazil's aspiration to become a permanent member of the Security Council, and we think -- we've said this before -- that the long-term viability of the U.N. Security Council depends on the Council reflecting the world of the 21st century. We’ve been very clear in that respect. We're very committed to a serious and deliberate U.N. Security Council reform, working with other member states to improve the ability of the Security Council to carry out its mandate and meet the challenges that we're facing together in this century.
Q Thank you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes, go ahead.
Q Yes. On immigration please. My question is will Vice President Joe Biden promote the American health care industry, especially cancer research in Latin America by sharing the great accomplishments of (inaudible) St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital? Well, mainly my primary question is, will Vice President Joe Biden promote America's health care industry with Latin America?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I'm sorry, could you repeat the question? It just didn’t come through very clearly.
Q Will Vice President Joe Biden promote America's health care industry, especially cancer research to Latin America? And especially how we're doing great accomplishments here in the United States regarding St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital (inaudible)? Will the Vice President promote our health care industry?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Certainly. I should say that health care is one of the issues that is an important -- a particularly important issue in the Americas with the expansion of the middle class.
What's very clear is that this is one of the most important phenomena in the Americas and one of the reasons why the United States is very involved. Because as the middle classes emerge, they're going to be more interested in having access to functional and effective public services, including health care, I would say in general terms, this is an area where we’re certainly very open to continuing our collaboration.
In both Colombia but especially in Brazil, we’ve had very active collaboration between the Department of Health and Human Services and their counterparts, and this is something that’s going to continue.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just to add to what my colleague said, I think science, technology, and innovation are incredibly central features of U.S. engagement across the hemisphere. It’s something President Rousseff is particularly interested in driving in Brazil, and so deepening the U.S.-Brazil partnership in this space.
But beyond Brazil, in many other countries in the region as well, we view this as an area where the United States has a lot to offer and it will certainly be the sort of thing that the Vice President raises in the various stops of his visit.
MS. TROTTER: All right, we’re going to take one more question.
Q My question has to do with the war on drugs, drug strategy, the new strategy that has been billed on this part of the trip, Colombia, a very important ally in this fight in Brazil, one of the main players in the region.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So your question is about the new drug strategy?
Q Yes, and how it’s going to play into the visit. You have Colombia, a major producer; you have Brazil, a transitional country and a very important market; and you have the Caribbean -- Trinidad and Tobago.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think we should start this by saying, number one, we have a very good counternarcotics and law enforcement relationship throughout the Americas. We expect that to continue. We’ve had that indicated to us both in the meetings that the President had in Mexico and Central America and the meetings since then and what we expect to see during the Vice President’s trip as well.
I think what is very clear is that there are no simple solutions. All sides are recognizing that this is a matter of shared responsibility and shared action. And what we’re seeing is an evolution where countries are both transit countries, some production countries, as well as consumer countries. So there’s no one country that fits into a particular category on its own.
We’ve had a very ample level of cooperation obviously in Colombia, which has seen impressive turnarounds in security postures due largely to the work of successive Colombian administrations to put citizen security at the front of their agenda and to dedicate their resources and policies to bring that about.
In the case of Brazil, we have a very strong counternarcotics cooperation -- level of cooperation, as well. In both cases, we have been very focused on demand reduction. In the case of the United States, as you mentioned there was a new strategy that was rolled out by the Office of National Drug Policy, and that strategy, which I recommend people look at, emphasizes demand reduction, to which the United States has dedicated $30 billion over the last three years, and alternative resolutions for people who should not be incarcerated for nonviolent crimes.
In other words, these are all issues that we’ve seen indicated a lot of interest from our partners in the Americas and an area where we expect to continue to collaborate closely.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And so just to add to that, citizen security is going to be an important feature of the agenda, though it will not be the dominant feature of the agenda.
Economic growth, energy cooperation, partnership on regional and global issues -- it’s going to be broad-ranging agenda.
But within that context in both Colombia and in the Caribbean, we have very deep security partnerships. The Caribbean Basin Security Initiative will be a significant topic of conversation in Trinidad and Tobago. Our ongoing cooperation with the Colombians on the work they're doing will be a topic. And then the work we’re doing together with Brazil that my colleague referenced will obviously come up in the meetings with the President and the Vice President.
So we feel like the steps that we’ve taken on a multi-pronged approach to citizen security and to dealing with the issue of drug trafficking and drug consumption both at home and throughout the region that we are pursuing the right course, and we’re going to look to continue and deepen the cooperation that we have with each of the countries we’re visiting.
MS. TROTTER: All right, thanks, everyone, very much for joining the call. That's it.
4:00 P.M. EDT
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:31 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the White House. Thanks for being here. Before I take your questions I wanted to mention something that I think is breaking now, as Wolf Blitzer would say, and that is that on Sunday, May 26th, the President will travel to the Oklahoma City area to see firsthand the response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that have impacted the area on Sunday night and Monday. He will visit with affected families as well as thank first responders.
The President has directed his administration to provide all available resources to support the response, led by the Governor and her team.
More detail on the President’s travel will be released when available. With that, I'll go to your questions. Nedra.
Q Thanks, Jay. I have some questions, but first, happy birthday.
MR. CARNEY: You're very kind. Thank you -- 29 forever. (Laughter.)
Q First on the IRS controversy, given that you all had pledged your full cooperation with the investigations on Capitol Hill, what’s the White House response to Lois Lerner taking the Fifth Amendment today?
MR. CARNEY: Let me say that, as you heard from the President immediately after the release of the independent Inspector General’s audit, he is absolutely committed to finding out everything that happened here, finding out who’s responsible for the failures, holding them accountable, and ensuring that the IRS take steps so that this will never happen again.
As you know, within the immediate aftermath of the release of that report, Secretary Lew, acting on the President’s direction, accepted the resignation of the acting IRS commissioner and the President appointed a new acting IRS commissioner.
As you also know, the responsibilities that Secretary Lew has assigned to Danny Werfel in that job through Secretary Lew -- the President has, rather, through Secretary Lew -- include within 30 days, Commissioner Werfel reporting back to the President and to Secretary Lew about progress made in three areas: One, ensuring the staff who acted inappropriately are held accountable. Two, examining and correcting any failures in the system that allowed this behavior to happen. And three, taking a forward-looking, systemic view of the agency’s organizations.
So the President has directed these actions to be taken at the IRS. Danny Werfel, the new acting commissioner, starts today. Today is his first day. That 30-day review begins today. Additionally, we have made clear that we are cooperating with and will continue to cooperate with congressional oversight. That's an important component in a situation like this. And the Department of Justice, the Attorney General has announced a criminal investigation into this matter.
So you see two separate branches of government in three different areas working to find out what happened, to find out who’s responsible for the failures, the clear failures, the inappropriate behavior, the improper conduct, to hold them accountable, and to ensure that procedures are put in place so that it doesn’t happen again.
Q How can you find out what happened if a person who’s in Ms. Lerner’s position is taking the Fifth --
MR. CARNEY: As far as the President is concerned -- and I would assume this is true of Congress, and I’m assuming it’s true of the Department of Justice -- there is a commitment here to get to the bottom of what happened, and I can assure you that the President intends to do that.
Q Can I talk to you also about the investigation into Benghazi and the report that there are five suspects that are under around-the-clock surveillance? Some lawmakers are raising concerns today that the U.S. might lose these suspects as they’re being monitored to find more evidence. Does the White House share that concern?
MR. CARNEY: We have seen the report, and I would refer you, of course, to the FBI on the status of their investigation, which, as you know, is ongoing. What I cannot -- while I can’t discuss, rather, the specifics of that ongoing investigation or the internal deliberations related to it, I can say what the President said on the day after those attacks: “Make no mistake, we will work with the Libyan government to bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” And I would also point you to something that the Attorney General recently said, which is that we have made very substantial progress in that investigation.
The President is committed, as he made clear from day one, to two things: Finding and bringing to justice those who killed four Americans. Two -- making sure that the failures that led to the deaths, in terms of security, of four Americans be corrected. And he is, through the FBI investigation that he ordered up, ensuring that the first objective is achieved; and through the process that he instituted through the Secretary of State and the Accountability Review Board, ensuring that the second objective is being achieved. He is also following through on that second objective by calling on Congress, as you heard him say recently, to ensure that there is funding available to upgrade our security at our diplomatic facilities around the world.
Q Is it his preference or his direction that the investigation and that justice be brought through the civilian courts?
MR. CARNEY: I will tell you simply that when we succeed in capturing suspected terrorists who pose a threat to the American people, our other critical national security objective is to maintain a viable authority to keep those individuals behind bars. The strong preference of this administration is to accomplish that through prosecution either in an Article 3 court or a reformed military commission.
With regards to the disposition of this specific investigation, to the progress being made, I’d have to refer you to the FBI. But that has been our position.
Q Jay, Happy birthday.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. This is how I chose to spend it. (Laughter.)
Q Lucky you.
MR. CARNEY: You know what -- I agree with that sentiment.
Q On immigration. Yesterday, the President released a statement saying that the immigration bill that passed out of committee reflected his principles, but that he hoped it would be improved in the amendment process. What improvements is he looking for?
MR. CARNEY: Well, what I think he has said all along is that he had some bottom-line principles that were articulated in the proposals that were put forward online and presented to you and the public that have guided what he has said about immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, throughout this process.
And he has said and he made clear in that statement again last night that the measure that passed out of committee last night with a bipartisan vote does reflect those principles. He has also said that he does not expect that in a bipartisan process that is dealing with a matter of the magnitude of comprehensive immigration reform, that he is going to get everything exactly as he would write it. And he doesn’t expect that anyone in this process will feel, when it’s over, that he or she has gotten everything that he or she wanted, or that the bill emerges exactly as they would have written it.
But he will, of course, as we work with Congress, as this process moves forward, work to have the bill reflect as closely as possible what he believes are important objectives.
Q Can you be specific about what else he would like in terms of improvement?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there are some issues -- I mean, I think you know that he supported the -- that he supports an amendment regarding the rights of LGBT individuals, and he made that clear I think in answer to a question he took on his trip to Latin America. And this is not limited to that specific issue.
Q So he’d like that back in?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think he’s made clear that he supports that and would like to see Congress support that. He’s also made clear that he doesn’t expect to get everything he wants in this bill. It doesn’t mean he won’t fight for everything he wants, but he understands that compromise means not getting every single thing that you want.
But the process cleared a significant hurdle last night and, in an otherwise busy news environment, it’s important to note that a major objective, a major bipartisan objective, has been making significant progress in the Senate as well as the House, and cleared that significant hurdle last night. There’s more work to be done, to be sure. We are not there yet, but that is something that the President believes needs to be noted, that the senators responsible for that progress need to be commended for, and that serves as a useful reminder of the fact that we are capable here in Washington when we focus, when we work together, when we accept that we’re not going to get everything we want, and if we want to achieve something in a bipartisan way, we can do big things. And we’ve done it before. And last night’s success coming out of committee demonstrates that we can do it again.
Q One quick follow-up on the IRS. We’ve talked -- you’ve talked a lot in the briefing room about Kathy Ruemmler and how people were informed. Can you say how many people on the senior staff were included when she informed people?
MR. CARNEY: I want to say in response to I think Hans and some other questions here, we have endeavored to provide a great deal of information to you very quickly. And in a situation like this, we face a choice that when we have a ton of incoming questions, legitimate questions, you guys are doing your job, as I said in answer to a question from Mark I believe last week. This kind of environment when there are a lot of news stories, there are a lot of legitimate questions out there, it’s part of our democracy, and it’s a great part of our democracy.
And the approach we take is we get the information to you that we have as soon as we can. And we try to get that information to you as quickly as possible and as comprehensively as possible.
Now, quickly and comprehensively are not objectives that always meet. And our approach is we get the information we have to you, and as we get more information, we fill in the details. And if it turns out that the information that -- new information we have requires a correction, we do that. That's what I did on Monday when it came to the so-called timeline.
So you guys -- we have a team here that works really hard at trying to anticipate the questions you’re going to ask. The problem is there are a lot of you, and you're good at your jobs and you’re smart. And we almost invariably do not anticipate every question that you ask. So sometimes, we don't have the answers, and sometimes we need to go back and get them.
But overall in this effort, I think that what the information we’ve provided to you shows is that in response to the notification that people received about the pending completion of an independent Inspector General’s review of inappropriate activity by IRS personnel, a decision here was made to wait until that report was finished before any action or any comment was made. Because the cardinal rule here, even though it can be inconvenient from a communications point of view or even a political point of view, is that you don't intervene. You don't prejudge. You don't use the weight of this podium or this building or the presidency to get ahead of the kind of independent investigation that this particular IG audit represents, or in the case of some other matters we’ve talked here about, criminal investigations that take place under the aegis of the Department of Justice. So --
Q But without filling in details, my question was can you tell us --
MR. CARNEY: And here’s what I’m going to tell you. (Laughter.) No, no, and I just wanted to say that because I think it’s important that -- there’s been some legitimate criticisms about how we’re handling this, and I say legitimate because I mean it. But we are endeavoring to pursue those two objectives. In an environment that really never has existed before in terms of the speed and information flow, the rapidity with which information is conveyed and then released, we are working to get you everything we can as quickly as we can and as comprehensively as we can.
And the alternative, of course, is to -- and it may be a better approach -- you and others can decide -- is to then say, look, I can't answer any of these questions until later. And then we can spend all our time trying to get everything that we know, that we can find, and then waiting sometimes hours, days. But the demands of the news environment make that very difficult. So we take the path we've taken and accept that it’s got some potholes in it and diversions that aren't always enjoyable.
Having said that, in answer to your question, here’s what I can tell you. As you know, there was an initial communication to a lower-level person in the White House Counsel’s office through email just as part of a number of updates on the status of a number of Inspector General matters that included reference to this Inspector General audit coming to conclusion. That was, I believe -- whatever I said -- April 16th. But the White House Counsel herself did not find out until April 24th. She then notified some members -- but not all -- some members of senior staff.
I can't tell you because -- she notified some -- I can't account for every conversation that might have been had outside the White House Mess. I can't tell you how many people knew. What I can tell you is she alerted the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff; obviously, others in her office knew.
And from everything we've gathered and all the evidence shows -- whether it was April 16th or April 24th or May 10th, when the news broke, our approach to this has been the same, which is that we should not do anything, we should not act on this information until the report is finished, the independent Inspector General’s audit is completed. And that's the approach we took.
And there’s been criticism of that. I think it was the right call, personally. But obviously others have different opinions.
Q Well, we appreciate your respect for the free press.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s sincere. I think you know that. But go ahead.
Q In that spirit, in the President’s quest for balance between freedom of the press and prosecution of potential criminal leaks, and in the interest of transparency, would he ask his Justice Department to release the names of all reporters and all news organizations whose phone records have been subpoenaed, who are currently being monitored, or who are in any way being investigated as a part of any potential leaks investigation?
MR. CARNEY: It’s a very interesting question and -- (laughter) -- no, seriously. Here’s the challenge it presents, is that that would be -- the action you're suggesting any President might take would be to actively involve himself or herself, any President, in an ongoing criminal investigation. And the consequences of doing that are potentially enormous. And that's why it’s very difficult, when you talk about ongoing activity, to suggest that the White House or the President should intervene or take action.
What I can tell you is what I told you yesterday, and that is that the President -- that I've spoken with the President about this issue and I've spoken to him about it generally in terms of his views on press freedoms, the First Amendment, the need for journalists to do their jobs, and on the question that I think I had been asked on an earlier day with regard to one of these specific cases but then extracted not to have -- so that it did not pertain to a specific case, should -- the President’s view is that if you were to ask him should a reporter ever be prosecuted for doing his or her job, the answer in his view is no.
But there’s also a balance here, and I think that everyone involved in these cases who has thought about it and written about it in a thoughtful way, or talked about it on television in a thoughtful way, recognizes that there are real issues here when we talk about our secrets. And as I mentioned the other day, if there were no consequences to divulging highly sensitive classified information, then we might as well not have it. We might as well not have secrets.
Q But that’s an extreme -- no consequences.
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, but --
Q So we’re talking about --
MR. CARNEY: So there has to be a mechanism by which we ensure that national security information that is highly sensitive, the divulgence of which could have enormous and detrimental consequences, is protected. And there has to be an enforcement mechanism to that. I think that -- I know that’s this President’s view. I believe it’s been the view of his predecessors.
It is also his view that we need to ensure that reporters are able to conduct investigative journalism freely and that they are not prosecuted for doing their job. And I think that, again, broadly speaking, not commenting on specific cases because I cannot and should not, that there are procedures in place that deal with this issue, as I understand it, and there should be more done, in the President’s view. And that’s why he supports a media shield law. And that’s why he thinks, as I said yesterday, that this conversation is important to have and that the broader discussion is important to have, and that the questions surrounding these issues are legitimate and that this is one of these issues that he believes should be discussed.
Q Jay, you just stated the President’s preference that no reporter should be prosecuted for doing their job. So would it be the President’s preference -- not intervening -- but would it be the President’s preference that the Justice Department release the names of news organizations and --
MR. CARNEY: You’re saying that --
Q It’s not a direction.
MR. CARNEY: Look, I understand, and it’s a smart way to ask the question, but I can’t suggest that the President would, as a matter of preference or action, intervene.
Q How can reporters do their jobs if they don’t know whether they’re being investigated while they’re doing it? How can they fairly ask people to share information if these people are going to lose their jobs, their livelihood?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I mean, the second part of your question -- look, I think that any of us who works for the federal government and who has been cleared for access to classified information is -- we have a public trust not to violate and divulge that classified information. And a decision to do that is a decision that should carry consequences. I think most Americans would --
Q Should reporters not know if they’re being monitored?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I believe and I know the President believes that there needs to be adequate provisions in the law that allow for the press to operate freely, and that is reflected in his support for the media shield law. It’s reflected in what he has said. It is also the case, Jessica, as I’ve tried to be expansive about in a way that pushes right up against the line here, that he believes that this discussion is important to have and he believes that the questions being asked now are worth asking.
Q Jay, Happy birthday.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you, sir.
Q So I appreciate fully your point about not being able to interfere with an investigation. I just want to try to understand the limits of presidential power in this case. The President would prefer that reporters not be prosecuted for doing its job --
MR. CARNEY: It is his view that reporters should not be prosecuted.
Q Exactly. And if he knew that such a thing was going on with the Justice Department, if there were cases that went over that line, would he have any power to intervene, or would the fact that those were ongoing investigations mean that he would --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not aware of, I mean, again, based on publicly available information, that any reporter has been or is being prosecuted. But what I would say is that of course he could not or should not intervene directly in such a hypothetical case.
The President can set policy for his administration and he can have policy discussions with his administration and with Congress, especially if policy considerations require legislation. He has done that and he will do that. But the hypothetical you set up, I think the answer to that is, no, because it would be inappropriate to do that.
Q Even if those prosecutors in the President’s view were abusing that power that they have?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, it’s a hypothetical that isn’t really germane to what we know now. And he obviously believes that investigations ought to be conducted properly, that rules and procedures ought to be followed, and in general, as I’ve said, believes that the press needs to be accorded significant freedom in doing its job.
Q And then on the IRS, is the President comfortable -- I know there’s still this 30-day review that’s just starting, there’s still a criminal investigation -- but does he feel that knowing what we know now, the right people have been held accountable at the IRS?
MR. CARNEY: No. He believes that we need to find all the facts. And I’m not saying that we know what all those facts are yet, but he believes that the Inspector General, the independent Inspector General, conducted an audit, identified clearly that inappropriate activity was taking place that was wrong and that should not have happened regardless of the motivation. And he believes -- and that is why he has insisted that what’s taking place take place, that the 30-day top-down review be instituted. He believes that we need to find out who’s responsible for the failures at the IRS and to hold them accountable, but we need to get the facts before we make judgments about who is accountable. But he’s insisting that that take place and that this move expeditiously.
Concurrently, as we speak, there is congressional oversight being undertaken. There are senior administration officials participating in that congressional oversight. We will cooperate with all legitimate congressional oversight, as we have in the past. And we think that's entirely appropriate.
We also note that the Attorney General has announced a criminal investigation into this matter. So I think that folks out in the country can look at the response from both the congressional and executive branches of government here and at least recognize that there is a united sense of seriousness about this problem and the need to find out what happened, to hold people accountable, and to put in place measures that ensure it doesn't happen again.
Q But you don't think Republicans are politicizing this?
MR. CARNEY: No. Look, as I said yesterday -- and I want to be clear because I think some of it got -- like my first answer to Major was reported and then not the second answer, which is: Let me be clear, the President believes the activity here, the actions here were wrong and inappropriate. He wants to get to the bottom of it. He wants people held responsible if they are responsible.
I think it’s also clear, as others have reported, that there has been some attempt to politicize this. I think that generally speaking, as I’ve said, congressional oversight from both parties is wholly appropriate. The President believes that. But there’s been some analogies thrown out and some other characterizations made, some accusations that are unfounded, that are backed up by zero evidence, that I think represents some attempts to politicize this.
But that is not to -- making that observation in this case is not to dismiss the severity of what we know, based on the IG report. And the President, as I think you’ve heard and seen, is not happy about it and he wants action taken.
Q Jay, Mr. Shulman said in testimony today, when asked about his many visits to the White House -- White House logs have him coming about 118 times in 2011 -- did he discuss the ongoing situation with the IRS with anyone here at the White House, he said, “Not to my memory.” Have you, here in the White House, asked everyone who might have been involved if there was any conversations anyone in this building had with anyone at the IRS in the relevant years about this pending matter?
MR. CARNEY: I have, obviously, seen what you just reported -- that former Commissioner Shulman in sworn testimony says that he does not -- he did not, to his recollection, talk to anyone at the White House about the handling of 501(c)(4) applications, and I certainly have no information to the contrary that would contradict that. I think he was also asked if he had been directed to have the IRS participate in this activity and he said no. And I obviously have no information to contradict that.
An IRS commissioner appropriately has -- or his designees has meetings on matters of policy all the time but not discussions about enforcement or applications for tax exempt status. And, again, I have absolutely zero evidence to suggest that he’s wrong in that assertion.
Q And in your process here in the White House, as you gather information, have you asked that question of everyone in the senior staff?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I can tell you -- and I think I would point you to my explanation for how we are trying to answer all the legitimate questions that we’ve been asked here -- that I certainly have no evidence to the contrary finding the absence or finding -- proving a negative can be difficult, obviously, but he has testified to that effect. The IG, the Inspector General himself said that in his audit he found no indication, no evidence of --
Q But he didn’t ask anybody here at the White House.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I know, but for the people who -- for the activity itself, he said that there was no evidence of outside influence or pressure from higher-ups. Again, that’s his finding, independent Inspector General. There is additional investigating being done by Congress, by the Department of Justice, by the IRS. But I have no -- we have no information that contradicts what former Commissioner Shulman has testified to.
Q In the testimony of Mr. Shulman, Stephen Lynch, a Democrat from Massachusetts, was expressing some frustration about the inability to get answers not only related to that, but to Lois Lerner. And he said if we can’t get answers, this inevitably will lead to calls not just from Republicans but from Democrats for a special prosecutor. And the President said last week he doesn’t believe that’s necessary. Is that the permanent position of the White House that it will never be necessary?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a hypothetical. What I would say is --
Q In this matter.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we intend to get answers. We intend to get answers. The President insists that we get answers. Congress rightly insists that we get answers. I expect -- independent criminal investigations, so I haven’t had this conversation -- but I expect that the Attorney General and those who will work on the investigation at the Department of Justice expect to get answers. And, again, I think you have a 30-day top-down review at the IRS with new leadership. You have congressional oversight. You have Department of Justice investigating. I think that demonstrates the seriousness that both branches of government are -- the seriousness with which both branches of government here are addressing this matter. And I don't think that there’s any indication given that seriousness, given that determination, to get to the bottom of this, to get the facts and to hold people accountable, that there’s any reason to take that step. And that's the President’s view as he said last week.
Q Will the President revisit that if Congress proves incapable or frustrated with its ability to get answers?
MR. CARNEY: Major, I would simply say that he expects results. He expects answers. And he has put in place a process that will hopefully fulfill that objective. There is another process in Congress that we are cooperating with that we believe should have that as its objective, and there is a separate criminal investigation undertaken by the Department of Justice.
Q Before I let you go, there’s a report in Germany today. The German intelligence now has completely reassessed --
MR. CARNEY: Okay, so when I said that there are sometimes questions we do not anticipate, I’m pretty sure this is one of them. (Laughter.)
Q No, just an assessment of Syria and the civil war. And its assessment is that Assad is in a much better position, and that his armed forces have inflicted considerable losses on the rebels; that their own disorganization, which is well understood, is increasingly a problem, and they now predict that Assad is more than likely to hold on.
Two questions: Would you and this government disagree with that assessment, that Assad is in a stronger position than he was, say, six months or twelve months ago? And even if you don't agree with that, is there a question now about the efficacy of the entire U.S. policy there if, in fact, Assad is able to hold on?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I have not seen the German assessment that you referred to, and I don't know whether it is our assessment that Assad is stronger now than he was a month ago or six months ago or weaker. I mean, clearly, he is significantly weaker than he was two years ago. And in that time, the opposition has gotten significantly more organized. It has received assistance from a variety of places, including from the United States. And our efforts to assist the opposition, working with our partners and allies, continue. Our efforts with the international community to -- and with the opposition -- towards implementing the Geneva Communiqué continue, because we believe that ultimately there has to be a political transition, and that the sooner that process begins the better, and that that process has to result in a post-Assad Syria.
There is no question that Bashar al-Assad continues to butcher his own people, to take brutal actions as he clings onto power. And there is no question, as I talked about yesterday, that Hezbollah, for example, is assisting him in that effort. And I think that demonstrates the kinds of friends that Bashar al-Assad has in the world. And we've made clear our views on that.
That is why we have stepped up our assistance. That is why we have stepped up our humanitarian aid. That is why we have stepped up our efforts to bring about a political transition. But no question this is a difficult situation and that --
Q It’s relevant because one of the decisions before the President is whether to step up the movement of arms to the rebels. And if they’re losing, there are vast policy implications to the U.S. government to make that decision. If they think they’re going to lose, why would you make that decision in the first place? It’s relevant, it seems --
MR. CARNEY: No, I think that's -- look, this is a difficult challenge, and I think your question is excellent. I do not know if it is the assessment -- if the assessment that the opposition is losing is one we share. I'm not sure that that's the case. But it is definitely a brutal environment there and Assad continues to cling onto power.
When we review our options and when the President reviews our options, and he reviews all options, including the question of whether or not to provide lethal assistance to the opposition, we have to look at all the factors. We constantly review that option. To this point, we have made the policy judgment that that is not the right course to take.
And we've had really interesting discussions in this room and elsewhere about that you have to look at the potential consequences of making a choice like that, and make sure that if you were to make a choice like that, that you were doing it in a way that helped bring about the policy objective you seek, because this is a very fraught business, as you know. And we’ve talked about composition of the opposition and the need to examine that. We've talked about whether introducing more arms into an incredibly violent situation will, in fact, help bring about the political transition that the Syrian people deserve. We look at that.
Which is not to say that this option doesn’t remain on the table; it absolutely does. But I think that the approach that we have taken has been one that has always looked at the potential consequences of these kinds of policy decisions. And that's why we have stepped up our aid, have provided aid directly to the opposition, directly to the Supreme Military Council, but why we have made the decision about what we’re not providing to this point that we have made.
Thank you, Major.
Q Jay, back on Justice, since you say the President feels so strongly about the press freedoms, why not take a more specific action, write a letter to the Attorney General from the President saying, I’m not going to interfere with criminal investigations, I’m not going to get into individual details, but my principle, the principle of this administration is we should not be surveilling reporters, we should be protecting their rights? Why can't he put that in writing?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, what you said is not specifically what I annunciated yesterday in terms of -- there is --
Q Reporters should not be prosecuted for doing their jobs.
MR. CARNEY: Well, okay. I did say that, and speaking for him I said that; reflecting actually a direct conversation I had with him, I said that. And I think it’s fair to say that since the President believes this is a conversation worth having, and he believes that these are legitimate questions and that if we remove them from the specifics of this case so that he can talk about them, he believes that he would participate in that conversation.
But I don't have any -- I don't have --
Q But he’s the President and he believes this, and yet this is going on in his own administration. And it appears --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you have to be careful about what “this” means, okay? And we have --
Q The New Yorker is reporting that it was more than just James Rosen’s phones that were being looked at by the government. So the President says one thing, his administration appears to be doing something else.
MR. CARNEY: Well, no, I don't think that's the case. Again, I can't specify -- speak to a specific criminal investigation. I can speak to the fact that publicly available information has indicated that that particular investigation is over, and that charges related to that investigation that will be brought have already been brought. So there’s that. And again, that's commenting on publicly available information.
More broadly, I think that we can't comment on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation. There’s the other matter that was discussed a lot last week and earlier this week, and appropriately so. Because as I think we’ve learned from these public reports, published reports and others, one of the issues here is that when there are leak investigations, investigations of the improper disclosure of classified information tends to mean an investigation at least in part into some portion of an administration. So of course, the White House cannot or should not -- the President cannot or should not insert himself or itself into that process because that would at the very least create the appearance of interfering.
But the President does believe that broader discussion needs to be held. He does believe that there are important policy issues here. He’s made that clear in his views on legislation, and I’m sure he looks forward to having that conversation in the future.
Q On the IRS, the President said he was outraged last week by the IRS scandal. Is he outraged then that Lois Lerner is taking the Fifth since you’ve said repeatedly that he wants answers? Is he outraged that she’s taking the Fifth?
MR. CARNEY: I can't speak to any individual’s decision about how they’ll approach congressional hearings. What I can tell you is that the President will not be deterred in the effort to find what happened here and who is responsible. He does not expect that Congress will be deterred in its pursuit of what happened here and finding out who was responsible, and insisting that those responsible be held accountable.
He does not expect -- again, independent and criminal investigation -- but he does not expect and nor do I that the Justice Department would be deterred in pursuit of finding out that information.
So the President has made clear what he thinks needs to happen here. He’s made clear how seriously he views this misconduct. And he has put in place a process at the IRS that will, as its purpose, gather more information and more facts to find out who is responsible and to ensure that they're held accountable, and to ensure that procedures are put in place so that it doesn't happen again.
And we are and we’ll continue to cooperate with congressional oversight into this matter and with any investigation that the Justice Department might be engaged in.
Q So you say the President wants to hold people accountable in this scandal. Why then is Lois Lerner still working at the IRS today?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think it’s important to find the facts before you hold people accountable. That's why the President through Secretary Lew has instructed a new acting commissioner on the job today to institute a 30-day review. We have, as our starting point, the Inspector General’s audit clearly identifies improper conduct, the improper targeting of specific conservative groups in the application process for nonprofit status -- clearly inappropriate. And now we need to find out who’s responsible. We need to be clear about those facts, and then we need to take action to make sure that those people are held accountable.
Q Last thing on -- you mentioned immigration, making some progress. Other second-term items for the President have not made progress -- gun control, a budget deal. A bit frustrated by those, but he is making progress on immigration reform. Is there any frustration here inside the White House that he’s making progress on this big item, it’s being overshadowed by the IRS, by the questions about some of these other stories?
MR. CARNEY: No, I think that we absolutely recognize that the IRS issue is significant and deserves attention. We absolutely understand that some of the reporting on what are apparently criminal investigations are of interest, and in particular interest to reporters, and absolutely valid questions about that, as I’ve said. So that’s an environment that’s legitimate and we understand.
But what he has made clear to all of us who work for him here and who work for the American people here is that there’s an agenda that the American people expect us to act on. And in the case of comprehensive immigration reform, that has become, rather rapidly, a bipartisan objective. And that is a good thing. And I think it demonstrates that even in this environment, which at times can be fractious and partisan, that there is the potential for significant progress on a difficult issue in a bipartisan manner, and the President believes that those senators and also those House members who have worked on this issue -- Democrats and Republicans -- and worked with the objective of reaching a deal and a compromise should be commended; and that, amidst everything else, they should be lifted up and pointed to as individuals who are making an effort -- as is the President -- to find compromise on the kinds of issues that only move forward if there’s bipartisan cooperation.
Q For our bookkeeping purposes, if today is the first day of the 30-day review --
MR. CARNEY: For your -- what did you say? Booking purposes?
Q Bookkeeping purposes.
MR. CARNEY: Oh, bookkeeping. I thought you wanted to book an interview for 30 days from now.
Q I appreciate it -- why don’t we do that as well if you want to. (Laughter.) But is it 30 days from now? And can you set a date by which the President is expecting to have the results or that you guys want to hear the results of this review?
MR. CARNEY: Well, full transparency -- the President, through the Secretary of Treasury, has insisted that the new acting commissioner conduct this top-down 30-day review. It is a fact that today is his first day on the job. And I think it’s safe to say that that clock starts ticking today. I would refer you, obviously, to IRS and Treasury for their specific timeline within that 30 days and what they expect the end day to be.
But as far as the President is concerned, Danny Werfel, the new acting commissioner, who is enormously qualified and has experience under administrations of both parties on these matters, is getting to work today and ought to make this his top priority.
Q On separate topics -- there’s a U.N. Nuclear Agency report today that says that Iran has increased its capacity to refine uranium by installing hundreds more centrifuges. I just was hoping to get the White House’s reaction to that news.
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question. I can tell you that I don't have more specific information on that except to say that we're reviewing the IAEA Director General’s report and we will discuss how best to respond to it with other members of the board. But we're currently reviewing the report. It is just released, as you said.
On this matter, the fact that Iran is engaged in continued pursuit of nuclear weapons is clear. We have worked assiduously with our international partners, as well as unilaterally to hold them accountable for their refusal to abide by their international commitments with regards to their nuclear ambitions. And we will continue to do that.
We have instituted the most stringent sanctions regime in history, a regime that has had a dramatic impact on Iran, that has made clear that there is a significant cost to their flouting of their international obligations. But I don't have --
Q -- hundreds more -- that's why I posed the question.
MR. CARNEY: We're reviewing this report and will have a comment on it. We believe, and we are engaged in a process that we know that there is still time for Iran to make this decision to choose to abide by its international obligations. And we are working with the P5-plus-1, which put forward a substantial offer in Almaty to bring that about. And now it’s up to the Iranians to respond substantively to that proposal and to address the international community’s concerns about the nature of its nuclear program.
Q Another headline made news today that an Army sergeant first class at West Point Military Academy has been accused of planting hidden cameras in the shower in locker room facilities of female cadets. Given what we heard recently from the President in terms of his referring to those who commit these crimes as unpatriotic and the like, how involved is he in knowing about the specifics of individual events, as there’s now been a consistent line of new headlines from around the --
MR. CARNEY: I don't know about the specific report. I can tell you that the President is very focused on this. And you heard him -- I think it was in the East Room when he addressed this -- make very clear that he has zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military and that he believes that those who participate in it dishonor the uniform they wear, and that those who are victims of it and who wear the uniform should know that the Commander-in-Chief has their backs.
And he is insisting that action be taken. He has met with Secretary Hagel about this. You have heard Secretary Hagel address this. This is a very serious matter. And he finds it unconscionable and there has to be action taken.
Q And just finally, if you can -- what can you tell us right now about what we can anticipate in terms of tomorrow’s National Defense University speech on counterterrorism? Is there any new guidance you can offer us?
MR. CARNEY: I think I went through yesterday what sort of topic areas that you can expect the President to discuss. I think these are weighty, substantive matters. This is a speech that he has looked forward to giving. It is one that he telegraphed in his State of the Union address. These are matters that, in some ways, similarly to the subject we were just discussing, he believes are subject to legitimate questions and that these are issue areas that he believes we need to be as transparent as possible about. And I think you’ll see that reflected in his remarks tomorrow.
Q We’ll hear from him tomorrow then about what his plans are going forward. But I'm curious, now five years in after the President’s pledge, before he came into office, that he would close Guantanamo Bay what he blames for that not having occurred to this point. Obviously, Congress has been an obstacle in this as well, but one of the things this administration did was shut down the office -- the special envoy who was in charge of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and I'm curious if that action has in some way contributed to this.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I clearly don't think that's an action that's contributed to the fact that Guantanamo Bay is still open and I think the President -- you will hear the President discuss this subject, and I don't want to get ahead of the specifics. But it is the President’s view that we should be determined, as he is, to see the Guantanamo Bay detention facility closed.
Keeping it open is not efficient, it’s not effective, and it’s not in the interests of our national security. And I think senior members of the military have testified to that fact. Senior members of sort of the broader national security apparatus of both parties have expressed that opinion. The President’s predecessor has expressed that opinion. The President’s opponent in the 2008 election, Senator McCain, has expressed that opinion.
The fact is Congress has enacted and renewed legislation in order to foreclose our ability to close the detention facility. The legislation restricts our experienced counterterrorism professionals from exercising their best judgment as to what the most appropriate disposition is of the individuals still held there.
The President is considering a range of options for ways that we can reduce the population there and move toward ultimate closure, some of which we can take on our own, but some of which will require working with the Congress, which we hope will engage more productively on this process in the future than it has in the past.
And to your point, I would say that one of the options is reappointing a senior official at the State Department to renew our focus on repatriating or transferring those detainees. I would wait for the President’s remarks for a fuller view of this important issue.
Q So that’s an option, but not an answer. Okay, thank you.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, ma’am.
Q Thank you, Jay. The Secretary of State is in the Middle East today and he is going to discuss the new effort to restart Israel-Palestine peace negotiation. Is the Obama administration hopeful of Kerry’s effort? Do you think that his fourth-time trip will help to reduce (inaudible) between in both sides?
MR. CARNEY: I think you saw from the President’s visit, and the immediate follow-up by Secretary Kerry, and his follow-ups thereafter that we are focused on this issue, and that we are looking for progress from both sides. And I wouldn’t characterize our level of optimism, because this is a difficult and challenging issue and has been for decades.
But we believe that there is an opportunity to move forward in the peace process, and it requires both sides to be willing to negotiate directly on the issues that remain unresolved. And we are engaging in that process, but it certainly requires both sides to be willing to engage as well.
Q Thanks, Jay. I want to go back to immigration reform. Senator Leahy yesterday withheld amendments that would have included gay couples as part of a larger package. Yesterday, the Associated Press reported that the White House had asked him to hold off on those measures. Did the White House, in fact, ask Senator Leahy to revoke those amendments?
MR. CARNEY: I think you heard the President address this issue -- I think it was in an interview in Costa Rica. I think the President supports that amendment, and he also made clear that he knows he won’t get everything, necessarily, that he wants in the final comprehensive immigration bill that he hopes the Senate will pass and the House will pass and will arrive on his desk. But he will push for those things that he believes ought to be in it.
He thinks it’s important that we make sure that everyone who’s engaged in this process understands that they may not get everything they want, but I think he expressed very clearly his strong support for that amendment. He would hope that if it comes up again that there would be strong bipartisan support for it -- and we’ll have to see. But his support I think he expressed very clearly.
Q It’s clear that the President supports that amendment, but that response doesn’t really get to the issue of whether the White House asked Senator Leahy to pull out --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have -- I think you saw the manner in which it was discussed in the hearing by Senator Leahy, who introduced it, and other members of the committee who discussed it. We are obviously engaged in conversations with the main players on this issue on a regular basis. And I don't have the contents of all those conversations. What I can tell you is that the President supports --
Q But you don't deny it?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q You don't deny the report.
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of that conversation. What I can tell you is the President supports the amendment. The President also believes, as he made clear in Costa Rica, that we need to accept that we may not get everything we want. It doesn't mean we’re not going to fight for the things that we believe in, and this President will.
Q I just want to follow up --
MR. CARNEY: Yes, sure.
Q During the markup last week, it was like one Democrat after the other was -- Senator Feinstein, Senator Durbin, Senator Schumer said they couldn’t bring themselves to support the measure. And these are senators from the President’s own party. Isn’t there a reasonable expectation that the President should have worked to bring them on board in time for that vote in accordance with decisions -- in accordance with the decision for immigration reform?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think each senator expressed himself or herself and his or her own views, so I would refer you to them. The President’s views are clear. He believes this amendment should be passed and has made his views clear on that. I can't speak for other senators.
Q Jay, does the President’s support of the media shield law acknowledge any existing problems with media protections or any potential abuse of power that this administration or another administration might use?
MR. CARNEY: What I would say is the President believes we need a media shield law because we need added protections reflected in the media shield law. And I would note that the negotiated bill from 2009 had the support of media organizations and prosecutors, and that reflects I think the balance that the President seeks.
I’m not suggesting that the media shield law if it were to pass tomorrow and be signed into law next week would end the discussion or would solve the challenges that this issue represents and contains within it, but he does believe that more needs to be done. That's why he has long supported a media shield law.
Q Does he trace the need for the law to the Patriot Act? Does he trace it to something more ontological with press freedoms?
MR. CARNEY: I confess that it would probably be more fruitful if you look back at the statements he made as a senator when he supported a media shield law, which obviously was prior to his administration, and to the statements that he and his administration made when this matter was up before the Senate in 2009 in terms of the origins of his concerns.
Q And about the speech tomorrow, Jay, on the promise that the President made in the State of the Union on drones, does the President feel like he has been as transparent as he has promised to be since then in the intervening months?
MR. CARNEY: On the issue of drones? I’m sorry --
Q Yes, targeted killings.
MR. CARNEY: We have in a variety of forums, through senior members of the administration -- from the President to the Attorney General to John Brennan and others -- provided a substantial amount of information and had a number of substantive discussions about this issue. The President made clear that he wants to expand that even further, that he believes that we need to be as transparent about a matter like this as we can, understanding that there are national security implications to this issue and to the broader issues involved in counterterrorism policy. That is why he is delivering this speech tomorrow, which will encompass a number of issues, including some of the specifics around counterterrorism execution and policy, as you described, also Guantanamo Bay and other issues.
But this is a matter that, as I said before and as the President has said, he thinks is an absolutely valid and legitimate and important area of discussion and debate and conversation, and that it is his belief that there need to be structures in place that remain in place for successive administrations so that in the carrying out of counterterrorism policy, procedures are followed that allow it to be conducted in a way that ensures that we’re keeping with our traditions and our laws.
Q But the President set the bar very high. Has he met his own bar?
MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously, if you ask the President, I think he has endeavored to meet that bar in keeping with the fact that he believes more information rightfully should be disclosed, he’s giving a speech tomorrow about it. And I hope everybody settles in -- I expect it will not be brief.
Q Happy birthday.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you, April.
Q You’re welcome. On the matter of the IRS and this whole other issue, has the President been updated on the delay in the federal tax refunds? Has he been told as to if the delay has ceased the refunds going out?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know the answer to that question so I’ll have to take it and get back to you.
Q Was he made aware of the delay in the tax refunds?
MR. CARNEY: He may have been, April. I just don’t know the answer, so I’ll have to take that question.
Q Jay, do you have a comment on this terror attack in London and whether the President has spoken to Cameron?
MR. CARNEY: I’m afraid I don’t. I’ll have to take the question, but we’ll get back to you on it.
Thanks, all, very much. Appreciate it.
2:28 P.M. EDT
Ed. Note: You can help people affected by the recent tornadoes through American Red Cross Disaster Relief. If you are in the affected areas, click here to apply for assistance and learn about other resources that are available to you. Check back here for more information — we'll continue updating this post as the response effort develops.5/23/13
President Obama continues to receive updates on the response to the devastating tornadoes in Oklahoma, and continues to direct his team to provide all available resources to support state and local partners leading the response.
More than 400 federal personnel remain on the ground in the impacted area, including teams that are working directly with families and individuals who were affected by the tornadoes. As of last night, more than 2,200 individuals impacted by the tornadoes had registered with FEMA for direct assistance available through the major disaster declaration provided Monday night. (For those in affected areas, find out how to apply for assistance here or learn about other resources available to you)
According to FEMA, since Monday night, the national Urban Search and Rescue teams completed searches of more than 1,200 structures in the affected area.
FEMA and federal partners have established an Incident Support Base to stage commodities. More than 127,000 liters of water and nearly 30,000 meals have been delivered to the state to support response efforts.
FEMA also continues to work closely with organizations such as the American Red Cross, who continue to bring resources to support impacted families. (Learn more about how to give or get help through the American Red Cross)5/22/13
Update 2: Press Secretary Jay Carney announced in today's briefing that on Sunday, May 26, President Obama "will travel to the Oklahoma City area to see firsthand the response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that have impacted the area on Sunday night and Monday. He will visit with affected families as well as thank first responders."
Update 1: Overnight, the President continued to receive updates from his team on the ongoing response in Oklahoma. Following yesterday's call to the Mayor of Moore Oklahoma, Glenn Lewis, the President spoke again to Governor Fallin expressing his concern for those who had been impacted and to reiterate that he had directed his Administration to provide all available resources to support the response led by the Governor and her team. Last night, the President also spoke with Senator James Inhofe to make clear that FEMA stood ready to continue to support the people of Oklahoma through the immediate response phase as well as the recovery, and to let the Senator know that Oklahomans remained in his thoughts and prayers.
On Tuesday, at the President’s direction, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate arrived in Oklahoma to ensure that federal resources were effectively supporting the response efforts. Administrator Fugate is on the ground again today, and this morning Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will also travel to the affected area to meet with local officials and see ongoing response efforts first hand.
As of this morning, FEMA has more than 400 personnel already on the ground supporting the response, including three national Urban Search and Rescue Teams, an Incident Management Assistance Team, as well as personnel focused on helping survivors register for and receive the federal assistance made available by the major disaster declaration signed by the President on Monday night. As of 2 a.m. this morning, more than 1,000 individuals affected by the tornadoes and severe weather in Oklahoma had registered for assistance with FEMA.
The President received a briefing this morning by his team, and will continue to be updated on the response throughout the day.5/21/13
President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the ongoing response to the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that impacted Oklahoma, in the State Dining Room of the White House, May 21, 2013. Vice President Joe Biden, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino accompany the President. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Update 3: As response and recovery efforts continue on the ground in Oklahoma, the Department of Homeland Security announced this afternoon that Secretary Janet Napolitano will travel to the area tomorrow to meet with state and local officials and ensure first responders are receiving the assistance they need to help those affected by the tornadoes.
Update 2: This morning, President Obama delivered a statement on the devastating tornadoes and severe weather that impacted Oklahoma. He described the response efforts underway, and assured the people of Moore and all the affected areas that they "would have all the resources that they need at their disposal."
For there are homes and schools to rebuild, businesses and hospitals to reopen, there are parents to console, first responders to comfort, and, of course, frightened children who will need our continued love and attention. There are empty spaces where there used to be living rooms, and bedrooms, and classrooms, and, in time, we’re going to need to refill those spaces with love and laughter and community.
"Americans from every corner of this country will be right there with them, opening our homes, our hearts to those in need," President Obama said. "Because we're a nation that stands with our fellow citizens as long as it takes. We've seen that spirit in Joplin, in Tuscaloosa; we saw that spirit in Boston and Breezy Point. And that’s what the people of Oklahoma are going to need from us right now."
|Daily Press Briefing: May 22, 2013
U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell leads the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on May 22, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2013/05/209801.htm.
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|Secretary Kerry Attends the President's Task Force on Trafficking in Persons
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the President's Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the White House in Washington, DC on May 17, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209595.htm.
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11:19 A.M. EDT
MRS. OBAMA: Good morning. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Good morning, everyone. Thank you. I am truly delighted to be here.
But before I begin, I want to just take a moment to say that our thoughts and prayers are with all of the people in Oklahoma. And as you all know, my husband and his team continue to monitor the situation, and he has directed the full resources of the federal government to be there for the people of Oklahoma as they begin to recover and rebuild.
And it's important to remember during these times that the spirit of unity and resolve and resilience that has defined that situation as we watch the people in Oklahoma recover and work together, that that’s the kind of resilience that has defined this country since its inception. It's who we are as Americans. And it’s that history that brings us together today.
So I want to start by thanking Fred for that very kind introduction, but more importantly, for his leadership throughout so many presidents to tell the story of this country; as well as Ken and Stephanie for their leadership and hard work to make this day possible. We should give them all another round of applause for their efforts. (Applause.)
For nearly 200 years, as our country has grown and evolved, the Decatur House has grown and evolved right along with it. This house has hosted parties and social events with some of our nation’s foremost leaders. It’s been a residence for secretaries of state, and at one time, it served as headquarters for the Army Subsistence Department of the Civil War.
But from the back of the house, from a structure far less lavish, comes even more history -- the kinds of stories that too often get lost, the kinds of stories that are a part of so many of our families’ histories, including my own. I’m talking about the slaves here at Decatur House who spent their lives within shouting distance of one of the most powerful buildings on the planet -- a bastion of freedom and justice for all.
Yet, within this very place, about 20 men and women spent their days serving those who came and went from this house and their nights jammed together on the second floor of the slave quarters, all the while holding onto a quiet hope, a quiet prayer that they, too, and perhaps their children, would someday be free. These stories of toil, and sweat, and quiet, unrelenting dignity -- these stories are as vital to our national memory as any other. And so it is our responsibility as a nation to ensure that these stories are told.
So more than anything, today, I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for coming together to preserve these stories for years to come. Thank you to everyone from American Express for making such a generous commitment to honor all of our nation’s history. Of course, thank you to the White House Historical Association and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for finding new ways to engage with our past.
And finally, I want to thank all of you for all of the educational opportunities you’re giving to our young people. I’m about to go on a wonderful tour with some students from Willow Springs Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. And what’s most exciting is that they’re not just going to look at some pictures on a wall, they’re going to take part in the re-enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation. I'm not sure what I'm going to do while they do it. (Laughter.) I'm going to look on.
So truly, it is this type of engagement that you all are providing for young people that will continue to draw them into these spaces and give them an opportunity to really grow and understand, and understand the stories that create this country and their place in that history.
So you all aren’t just teaching our young people about history, you’re inspiring them to believe that they can make history as well. And that’s really what history is for -- it's for the next generation, it's for us to continue to learn and grow. So these spaces are critical. The work that you all are doing is vital. They would not exist without the work that you do, and we couldn’t be more grateful.
So with that, I guess I get to go do the fun thing -- I get to go hang out with some kids, which is my favorite thing to do and one of the reasons why you've done all this work. But I want to thank you all for your continued efforts. There are many more spaces that need this kind of attention and this kind of support. I hear it all the time, and those conversations do not fall on deaf ears. I know that these resources are vital to this country, so you all should be very proud of the work you have done and I hope you continue to do for centuries to come.
Thank you all. Take care.
11:25 A.M. EDT
Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell Discusses Syria During the Daily Press Briefing on May 20, 2013
|Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell Discusses Syria During the Daily Press Briefing on May 20, 2013
U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Patrick Ventrell discusses Syria at the top of the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on May 20, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/p/nea/rls/rm/2013/209761.htm.
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|Time: 01:08||More in News & Politics|
President Obama Announces His Intent to Nominate Dan Tangherlini as Administrator of the General Services Administration
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Barack Obama announced his intent to nominate Dan Tangherlini as Administrator of the General Services Administration.
President Obama said, “As Acting Director, Dan helped restore the trust of the American people in the General Services Administration by making the agency more efficient, accountable and transparent. I want to thank Dan for his leadership over the past year and for agreeing to continue serving in the Administration."
President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dan Tangherlini as Administrator of the General Services Administration:
Dan Tangherlini, Nominee for Administrator, General Services Administration
Dan Tangherlini is currently the Acting Administrator of the General Services Administration, a role he has held since April 2012. He was designated by the President to this position from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he has been the Chief Financial Officer since 2009 and also served as the Assistant Secretary for Management from 2009 to 2012. Prior to that, Mr. Tangherlini served as the District of Columbia City Administrator and Deputy Mayor from 2006 to 2009. In 2006, he served as the Interim General Manager of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. From 2000 to 2006, he served as Director of the District of Columbia Department of Transportation and from 1998 to 2000 as Chief Financial Officer of the Metropolitan Police Department. Mr. Tangherlini served in the Office of Policy at the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1997 to 1998 and at the Office of Management and Budget from 1991 to 1997. Mr. Tangherlini received a B.A. and an M.P.P from the University of Chicago, and an M.B.A. from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
Building Opportunities in Indian Country: Congratulations to the Graduates of Navajo Technical College
Dr. Jill Biden walks with the procession of graduates of the Navajo Technical College Class of 2013, Navajo Tech President Elmer Guy, Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly and the Board of trustees on the Navajo Tech campus in Crownpoint, New Mexico. May 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
On Friday, I had the honor of addressing a class of graduates at Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, New Mexico. The Navajo Tech graduating Class of 2013 earned certificates in 34 fields that will provide the tools they need to serve their community as teachers, nurses, engineers, mechanics, bankers, chefs and countless other opportunities all made possible by their commitment and dedication to improving themselves through the pursuit of a higher education.
Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) play a key role in President Obama’s educational goal of making the United States home to the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world. TCUs are critical institutions that build tribal communities, create good jobs across Indian Country, and provide Native Americans with the skills they need to do those jobs.
As a community college teacher, I love seeing what a tremendous difference a community like the one I saw at Navajo Tech can make in the lives of its students.
The impressive class of graduates included veterans like Jerrilene Kenneth, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Army mechanic, before she became the first college graduate in her family with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. It also included Navajo Tech Student of the Year Sherwin Becenti, who dropped out of college more than ten years ago but returned to school in order to build a better life for his family and set a good example for his children. Dwight Carlston, who grew up with no running water or electricity, was also among the graduates. Dwight maintained a 3.8 grade point average, ran cross country, served as Student Senate President and was recently elected as the Student Congress president of all 38 tribal colleges.
I congratulate the Senate Judiciary Committee on completing its work on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. Thanks to the leadership of Chairman Leahy and a bipartisan group of eight Senators, the legislation that passed the Judiciary Committee with a strong bipartisan vote is largely consistent with the principles of commonsense reform I have proposed and meets the challenge of fixing our broken immigration system. The process for considering this legislation has been open and inclusive with multiple hearings, and more than a hundred amendments were considered and adopted, in many cases with bipartisan support. I applaud the Committee members for their hard work, especially “Gang of Eight” members Senators Schumer, Durbin, Graham and Flake. None of the Committee members got everything they wanted, and neither did I , but in the end, we all owe it to the American people to get the best possible result over the finish line. I encourage the full Senate to bring this bipartisan bill to the floor at the at the earliest possible opportunity and remain hopeful that the amendment process will lead to further improvements.
NATIONAL MARITIME DAY, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Through every chapter of the American story, ordinary men and women have accomplished extraordinary things as members of the United States Merchant Marine. When the idea of America depended on the success of a revolution, mariners took on the world's most powerful navy and helped secure our future as a sovereign Nation. In the decades since, they have sustained critical supply lines for our troops abroad -- at times enduring profound losses to keep our sea lanes open. And through war and peace alike, the Merchant Marine has driven our economic growth by shipping our products all around the world. On National Maritime Day, we honor the generations of mariners who have served and sacrificed to make our country what it is today.
To keep America moving forward in the 21st century, we need to expand trade and commerce that creates good jobs for our people. Businesses in every corner of our country are stepping up to meet that challenge, ramping up manufacturing and selling more goods and services overseas. As they do, our Merchant Marine is making sure our products get wherever they need to go -- from ports here at home to new markets halfway across the globe. Their work is essential to growing our economy, and my Administration remains committed to getting our mariners the support they need to carry out their mission.
Whether equipping our service members in the theater of war or guiding our maritime industry in the calm of peace, the United States Merchant Marine has helped keep America strong for more than two centuries. Let us mark this day by reflecting on that legacy of service, honoring the men and women who forged it, and saluting the proud mariners who carry it forward today.
The Congress, by a joint resolution approved May 20, 1933, has designated May 22 of each year as "National Maritime Day," and has authorized and requested the President to issue annually a proclamation calling for its appropriate observance.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 22, 2013, as National Maritime Day. I call upon the people of the United States to mark this observance and to display the flag of the United States at their homes and in their communities. I also request that all ships sailing under the American flag dress ship on that day.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-first day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
NATIONAL SAFE BOATING WEEK, 2013
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BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Every year, the United States Coast Guard joins partners nationwide to raise awareness about boating responsibly. We highlight that important work during National Safe Boating Week, and we encourage all boaters to take appropriate precautions before casting off this season.
Safe boating starts onshore. Americans planning to spend a day on the water should prepare by filing a float plan with family or a friend, getting a free vessel safety check, and participating in a boating safety course. As they embark, boaters should make sure they have checked the marine forecast and all passengers are wearing a life jacket. And to put an end to preventable accidents that claim too many lives every year, individuals should never operate a boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Boating is an important part of our national heritage. This week, let us carry that tradition forward by following commonsense safety procedures and keeping our lakes, rivers, and oceans safe for all to enjoy.
In recognition of the importance of safe boating practices, the Congress, by joint resolution approved June 4, 1958 (36 U.S.C. 131), as amended, has authorized and requested the President to proclaim annually the 7-day period prior to Memorial Day weekend as "National Safe Boating Week."
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 18 through May 24, 2013, as National Safe Boating Week. I encourage all Americans who participate in boating activities to observe this occasion by learning more about safe boating practices and taking advantage of boating education.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this seventeenth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand thirteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-seventh.
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with DREAMers who have received Deferred Action and U.S. citizen family members of undocumented immigrants, in the Oval Office, May 21, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
As the Senate debates bipartisan immigration reform legislation, the President and the Vice President hosted a meeting today in the Oval Office with young immigrants, also known as DREAMers, as well as with the siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants. The meeting was an important opportunity for the President and the Vice President to hear directly from people whose families are affected daily by our nation’s broken immigration system.
The President and the Vice President were moved by the stories of courage and determination these young immigrants shared. The DREAMers shared how the deferred action changed their lives for the better and emphasized that they and their families need a permanent solution that will allow them to fully contribute to the country they call home. Their stories were both powerful and authentic, inspiring us all to remember the important task and responsibility we carry as public servants and members of the Obama administration.
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:08 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. Before I take your questions I just wanted to say a couple of things.
As you heard from the President, his thoughts and prayers are with the people of Oklahoma as they continue to respond and recover from devastating tornadoes and severe weather. Last night the President approved a major disaster declaration for Oklahoma, making federal funding available to support affected individuals, as well as additional federal assistance to support immediate response and recovery efforts.
Since yesterday afternoon, the President has spoke with Governor Fallin, Representative Tom Cole, and the Mayor of Moore, Oklahoma, Glenn Lewis. Earlier today, the President received a briefing in the Oval Office from his team on the latest response efforts underway. Participants included Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, Lisa Monaco; Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano; Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco; and FEMA Deputy Administrator Richard Serino. The President will continue to receive updates from his team as well as from officials in the region.
At the President’s direction, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate is now on the ground in Oklahoma to make sure that federal resources are available and fully supporting the efforts of the Governor’s team. Additionally, tomorrow Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will travel to Oklahoma to meet with state and local officials and ensure that first responders are receiving the assistance they need in ongoing response and recovery efforts to the severe weather that has affected the region.
FEMA has been providing resources since Sunday to support Oklahoma as they respond to deadly storms. As of this morning, more than 150 FEMA personnel were on the ground to assist in the response, with more on the way. Briefly, I'll say this includes a national incident management assistance team and two regional IMATs are deployed to the State Emergency Operations Center in Oklahoma City to coordinate with state and local officials in support of recovery operations. Three national urban search and rescue teams, one from Texas, one from Nebraska, and one from Tennessee, and an additional incident support team -- together they have all been deployed to support the immediate response efforts.
Two mobile emergency response support teams -- MERS -- are in Oklahoma to provide self-sustaining telecommunications, logistics, and operations support elements to assist in the immediate response needs, and additional teams are being deployed. Finally, three disaster survivor assistance teams are scheduled to arrive later today into communities to help address immediate and emerging needs of disaster survivors, including onsite registration, applicant status checks, on-the-spot needs assessments, and access to partners offering survivor services.
With that, I'll go to your questions. Julie.
Q Thank you. I had two quick questions about Oklahoma. I know that it's still early -- the tornadoes just happened yesterday -- but are there any plans for the President to travel to Oklahoma in the coming days?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have an announcement to make. And as you know, Julie, in situations like this, we always make decisions in the first instance based on the President's insistence that his travel does not interfere with recovery efforts, does not drain resources from those efforts. So those are the kinds of considerations that go into decisions like that, and at this time I don’t have an announcement of travel.
Q Do you also know yet whether you're going to have to ask Congress for more money for Oklahoma, or whether FEMA has enough funds?
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you at this stage is that the President has made clear that we will make sure that Oklahoma has the resources that it needs, including the resources we have already announced. And generally speaking, we are pleased that Congress has allowed us to do what is needed in situations like this. In this specific case, obviously in this short time period since the major tornado passed through, we're still in the process of assessing those needs.
Q If you were to need to ask Congress for additional funds, would you want that funding to be offset?
MR. CARNEY: I think what I would say about this is that in a situation like this, we have been pleased to work with Congress and we've been pleased by the fact that Congress has allowed us to do what is needed in situations like this, and that means being able to respond to the state's needs. Right now, FEMA has sufficient resources to do that. Further assessments will obviously be forthcoming.
Q Okay. And I just had one on the IRS. A Treasury official said last night that the Treasury Department told the White House twice about possible plans that the IRS had to make the targeting of conservative political groups public but didn’t tell the White House in the third and final instance. It almost seems too convenient that the White House knew about two of these possible plans but not the third and final plan. Do you feel like the White House should have been told by Treasury?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, I can simply tell you the facts, which are as described, and that is that in the communications I mentioned yesterday between Treasury officials and the Counsel's office as well as the Chief of Staff's office, and over here, the Chief of Staff's office and the Council's office, that there were discussions about the timing of the release of this information and the findings of the report.
The only two instances that those discussions encompassed were the discussion about the possibility of a speech by, I believe, Ms. Lerner -- which, as I understand, did not happen -- and then the possibility that the acting commissioner would get a question in testimony about these issues and whether or not he would -- what he would say in response to that, again, with regard to the ongoing IG audit. But we were not aware of what ultimately led to the first reporting on this on May 10th.
Q After the speech by Lerner didn’t happen and after Miller did not get the questions in testimony, did the White House ask Treasury what the plan then was for the IRS to announce this publicly?
MR. CARNEY: Again, the general discussions as described had to do with the timing of the release of the information and the findings of the actual audit. Our focus was I think, again, reflected in what I've said about this, on the expectation that when the report was finally completed and published, that that would be the appropriate time to respond to it and to direct any action in response to it.
Because, again, it's important to note that while there were discussions of draft findings and general conclusions, these kinds of things, history tells us, tend to change as they are finalized. And it was very important in our view, in keeping with what I said yesterday is the cardinal rule around here that we not take any action that could even be seen to create the appearance of intervening in an ongoing investigation like this -- in this case, an independent Inspector General audit. And so, of course, we did not.
Q Who did Treasury talk to here at the White House?
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s been reported. It was Mark Childress, Deputy Chief of Staff.
Q And he did not -- what did he do with the information?
MR. CARNEY: Again, this was part of just trying to find out when and under what circumstances this information would be released, made public, and what those findings would be. Again, we did not know until the actual report was published.
Q And the President was not made aware of this notification either?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely, he was not. And I think we made that clear. Some people have suggested that was unwise; I think people in the know and people who understand why it’s important to maintain distance from these kinds of things for a White House understand that that was the right call in our view and, again, many outsiders have said that as well.
The point being that, at least in this case, there was an ongoing, still not complete IRS audit -- IG audit of the IRS. And there was nothing the President could or should do until that process was completed. And upon the release of that information, the release of the final report, the President moved very quickly to make clear his feeling that the conduct portrayed within it was outrageous and inappropriate and wrong, and that action needed to be taken immediately to begin to correct the problem. And that included, obviously, working with Secretary of the Treasury Lew to ask for and accept the resignation of the acting commissioner; to appoint a new action IRS commissioner, who then has instituted a 30-day, top-down review to find out more about who was responsible for the unacceptable behavior, to hold them accountable and to make sure that there are processes in place that prevent this from happening again.
Q Can I ask you briefly about his speech on Thursday, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q How specific will he be in offering proposals to close Guantanamo Bay? And what will he say about drones? You say there will be a legal framework -- what exactly will that entail?
MR. CARNEY: Well, let me speak broadly and then I’ll go to the specific questions. As you know, in his State of the Union address in February, the President pledged to “continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”
In line with that pledge, on May 23rd, the President will give a speech at the National Defense University on the administration’s counterterrorism policy. In his speech, the President will discuss our broad CT policy, including military, diplomatic, intelligence, and legal efforts. He will review the state of the threats that we face, particularly as al Qaeda core has weakened but new dangers have emerged. He will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. He will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. And he will frame the future of our efforts against al Qaeda, its affiliates and its adherents.
I’m not going to get on the specifics of what he will say about Gitmo. I’m not going to get ahead of the President except to say that he is determined to see the facility closed and that he will address that subject in his speech.
Beyond what I just said about drones, I’m not going to get ahead of the President, but he will discuss that subject in the speech. It is, as he pledged in his State of the Union address, a subject that he believes deserves focus and attention. It is one around which he believes there have been and continue to be legitimate questions asked. He is very concerned about the need to put an architecture in place that governs counterterrorism policy for now and into the future. And that is what he’ll be discussing on Thursday.
Q Thanks. On the hurricane -- the tornado -- excuse me -- first of all, does the President have concerns about, given the devastation to the structures there, concerns about the stability of the building codes there, the stability of the structures, and does the building code need to be looked into?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know that at this point the President has focused on those questions. I think right now the President’s focus is on ensuring that we here in Washington through FEMA are doing everything we can to provide the necessary assistance to Oklahoma and to the residents who have been affected by the terribly severe weather and the tornadoes.
I’m sure when something like this happens, those kinds of questions are, understandably, asked and I believe will be looked at. Again, I’m just assuming this based on past instances of storms. But I haven’t heard the President discuss those issues in the immediate response to the weather in Oklahoma.
Q Does he think they should rebuild in this area?
MR. CARNEY: I think you heard the President pledge that we'll provide assistance to Oklahoma to recover from these efforts. And I would point you to the statements of Oklahoma officials about how they see the future in the recovery from this storm.
Q On the spending, I know you don't need more FEMA money at this moment. But already today, some on the Hill have said that any spending needs to be offset, but how we would offset it is not an appropriate question. The quote is “it's insensitive to even talk about it now.” So what would the President say, what do you say to politicians who are already insisting that additional spending for tornado victims needs to be paid for, but it's insensitive to talk about how it would be paid for?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would simply say that the President has made clear that we will make sure that Oklahoma has the resources that it needs, including the resources we have already announced. And we are pleased that Congress has allowed us to do what is needed in the past in situations like this -- in other words, to provide resources that are needed when they're needed.
I think it's too early to assess what kinds of needs there will be as Oklahoma moves from the immediate recovery from the storm to assessing the longer-term damage. Right now, as you mentioned, we believe that FEMA has the resources sufficient to deal with this. But we will, obviously, be making regular assessments with all the team members we have on the ground, working with state officials.
Q One clarification on the IRS and then I'm done. Yesterday, you made clear that Denis McDonough and others were informed by Kathy Ruemmler. Acknowledging the view that there is no action that the White House could or would have taken, putting that aside, just asking you about how forthcoming the White House is being about this issue -- when this information was not revealed last week and throughout the week, was that because you didn't know or because you didn't want to say?
MR. CARNEY: No. Here's the thing. I answered the questions that were asked of me. The point was -- I was asked when did the White House know. At that point, Kathy Ruemmler was the point of contact and she learned the week of April 22nd. I did find out that prior to that, someone in her office was -- part of a list of items that were coming forward related to IG matters, that this was one of the line items on it provided to someone in her office. But Kathy Ruemmler became aware of it April 24th.
And I would just say that what I provided yesterday was in response to some of the -- in the rapid development of information about this story and the stories that were being written, there was some confusion about that timeline and I provided more details about it.
I would also say it is still just a few days since the report was released, and we have been extremely transparent in providing information. The information I provided yesterday, just a few days after this report was released, I think reflects an effort here to provide information. And I think, again, the fundamental issue here is that in, I believe, June of 2012, the IG, in response to requests from Chairman Issa, began an audit as I understand it -- obviously Chairman Issa was aware of that -- in October or sometime in the fall of 2012. The fact of this audit was publicly announced on a website. And the conduct was finished, as we understand it, based on the IG's report in May of 2012.
And everything that we have told you reinforces the fundamental facts here that we follow the cardinal rule: We do not interfere in -- this is an important fact. It is in many ways, with regards to the White House, it's the most important fact -- that we do not interfere with or intervene in criminal investigations or independent Inspector General audits. And that is the case here.
Q But as to the question why this didn’t come out last week, it's because we didn’t ask?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I gave you the information in response to the questions, and we have provided an enormous amount of information about the communications that we've had -- who learned what about this and when, the fact that the President was not informed, how he reacted when he was informed -- and have walked you through that process. And again, I think any comparison of this, the speed with which we provided that information to the general practice, I think shows a determination to get you information very quickly.
Q Jay, I'm a little confused on the audit question. Just quickly -- so if there's an Inspector General audit going on on a given action, the White House can't take any action to deal with it?
MR. CARNEY: To intervene in an independent Inspector General's audit?
Q No, to take action about the underlying --
MR. CARNEY: I would love to see the ABC story on that. (Laughter.)
Q -- well, no, no, to intervene on the underlying activity, is what I'm asking.
MR. CARNEY: But we weren't aware of an underlying activity. There were accusations. Congressman Issa asked for the Inspector General to look into it, as I understand it -- and I think he's spoken to this. He has said that it would have been unwise to comment on that as it was ongoing, from his perspective, until the report was concluded. And the fact that there was an audit ongoing we know now was publicly announced by the IG on a website that fall.
Once there is an independent investigation, if you will -- in this case, termed an audit --
Q Your hands are tied, you can't do anything.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we're certainly not going to intervene in an independent investigation. And the IRS is a unique agency, a component of the Treasury Department but it is properly insulated from political interference because it is paramount for the confidence of the American people in the way that the tax laws are applied that that insulation exists. And we interact -- or don’t interact for that reason -- with the IRS. And I think that, again, the information I provided yesterday reflects that absolutely due caution.
Q Okay. Now, on Lois Lerner -- so if my understanding is correct, you're saying there were some preliminary discussions with the White House about the IRS issuing an apology through a Lois Lerner speech?
MR. CARNEY: As I said yesterday and as has been reported today, there were discussions between the Treasury Chief of Staff's office and office of General Counsel and the White House Counsel's office and Chief of Staff's office about the timing of this information release and the findings themselves. It was all about the -- the whole point of a heads-up, as I understand it in a case like this, is that when a matter is coming to a conclusion, as the IG audit was, that when a matter like that is likely to get congressional or public attention that a heads-up is given.
And so we were simply -- and the conversations were just about finding out when that information was going to be released and what it was going to say -- because, I think as I made clear yesterday, until we had the report we did not know the final conclusions of the Inspector General.
Q So if the message got to the White House that, well, the plan is that we’re going to plant a question at an ABA conference --
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s a nice hypothetical but that didn’t happen.
Q No, but if that happened, would you have said no? Would you have objected to that kind of a tactic?
MR. CARNEY: I think every case we have deferred I believe -- well, not we -- the only conversations here were between members of the White House staff and Treasury staff. But our approach has always been to be hands off and to defer. But I would refer you --
Q So if someone --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you’re going to ask me speculative questions about things that didn’t happen -- I think there are probably people here who have questions about things that --
Q Well, I'm just asking, so you would have said, okay, go ahead and do whatever you guys want, if you guys want to plant a question, that’s okay?
MR. CARNEY: Again, we didn’t have that information.
Q It seems like a strange way to release information.
MR. CARNEY: I think you should ask others who knew about it whether they objected.
Q No, no, would you object to that?
MR. CARNEY: Again, our interest was always in waiting for the IG report to be completed before we acted on it or commented on it. And I think that’s the way the American people would expect a White House and a President to handle a situation like this.
Q I just find it odd that you have no objection to the idea of releasing a sort of planted question.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, since we didn’t know about it, I think you should ask those who did.
Q Separate from that, you did know that Lois Lerner intended to apologize for this conduct, correct?
MR. CARNEY: Well, some folks here had that conversation that that was possible, based on what the Treasury Department --
Q So it wasn’t just about a question of conduct; it was about the proper way to apologize for conduct that needed to be apologized for.
MR. CARNEY: Our interest was in finding out --
Q The White House understood that there would be something worth apologizing for.
MR. CARNEY: Our interest was in finding out the timing of the release of the information. We did not have the final results. We did know --
Q You knew enough that there was something to apologize for -- is that correct?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I said yesterday that we knew that Kathy Ruemmler was notified of the topline assessment that there had been improper targeting of conservative groups using the names that I described yesterday. But beyond that, we didn’t have any more specifics. And we did not -- and it was very clear to us that there was not a final report, but that these were the draft conclusions.
Q Not a final report, but it was bad.
MR. CARNEY: Well, based on what we knew, there were the conclusions that I said. But, again, our interest was only in finding out when the information would be released and when the IG report would be finished.
Q And to the question that some people have raised that this seemed like a concerted effort to insulate the President from this bad news, you would say what?
MR. CARNEY: No, I would say that it is the appropriate approach by Counsel, in this case, to dealing with incomplete information about an ongoing audit by an independent Inspector General, and that if the opposite had happened in this or any other White House, there would be questions about -- if a President were informed of what a White House had learned about a still ongoing independent investigation, there would be questions about what the President might have done with that information.
In this case, it was the judgment of Counsel -- and I think you’ve seen from outside people writing about this and talking about this who have experience in these matters, that this was the right judgment -- that it was not appropriate in this matter to alert the President about this until the report itself was complete. And the fact is the President found out about it through news reports because the news of this emerged prior to the completion of the report, prior to the publication of the report.
Q On Sunday, Dan Pfeiffer said that one thing Republicans do when they lack an agenda is try -- I’m quoting him directly -- “try to drag Washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions, trumped-up hearings and false allegations.” Can you describe what he’s talking about?
MR. CARNEY: I think we have a history here already for the past several years of attempts by Republicans to politicize matters --
Q Is there anything that's -- an issue now fall into that category in your opinion -- in the White House’s opinion?
MR. CARNEY: On which issue?
Q I’m asking you. Do you have anything that's happening now, swirling around, that falls into any of these categories?
MR. CARNEY: I would say -- again, Republican obsession with the talking points surrounding Benghazi --
Q Would fall into that category.
MR. CARNEY: -- is provably and demonstrably political and has focused on talking points instead of the tragedy that happened in Benghazi, the need to find those responsible for the deaths of four Americans and hold them to justice, and the need to take -
Q Does the IRS fall into that category?
MR. CARNEY: -- and the need to take action to ensure that what happened in Benghazi doesn't happen again -- which is why you heard the President call on Congress to take action to provide the funds necessary to enhance our security around our embassies around the world.
Q Does the IRS fall into that category?
MR. CARNEY: On this, I think you have seen -- I’m not going to catalogue some of the more outlandish statements that we’ve seen from some Republicans on this matter, on the IRS, but it is absolutely the case that there have been Republicans who have tried to politicize this right away and tried to turn it into a partisan issue.
But the President, from the moment he found out what the results of this inquiry were, was absolutely clear about how outraged he was by the conduct, how absolutely unacceptable the conduct was, and his insistence that people be held accountable for that conduct. And I think that that was reflected in what Dan Pfeiffer said on Sunday and what the President has said on the times that he’s spoken about this.
Q Does congressional curiosity about the Department of Justice dealing with the AP situation fall into that category?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’ve seen yet. I think that these are matters in terms of specific investigations that, appropriately, we can't comment on. But that doesn't mean that there aren’t legitimate questions that are asked by Congress or other parties on matters like this.
Q Do questions raised about HHS Secretary Sebelius and her efforts to raise funds through the private sector for Enroll Now fall into that category?
MR. CARNEY: We can go down the list of -- we could say what about the President’s birth certificate? Was that legitimate --
Q I’m not asking about that. I’m not asking about that. I’m just asking -- this is the last thing --
MR. CARNEY: Okay. I am sure that as is the case with --
Q Is that a legitimate form of inquiry?
MR. CARNEY: I can answer your question about that matter and the precedent for what Secretary Sebelius has done and is doing, and there is precedent for it, including in the previous administration. And so, yes, I would say that when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, in keeping with an institution in the House of Representatives with its leadership that has now voted 39 times to repeal something that the Speaker of the House himself said after last election was law, and that he should -- they were rethinking their strategy on this, demonstrates a political and partisan approach to some of these issues that isn’t helpful when it comes to what the American people really want us to be doing here, which is addressing their concerns -- addressing their focus on the economy and the need for it to continue to grow; addressing their sense that the middle class still needs Washington to help it grow and thrive, and for Washington to take action to ensure that the economy is creating the kinds of jobs in the future that will support a middle-class family.
That's the President’s focus. And I think that there have been repeated instances, and I think many of you have written and reported on them, where there has been an attempt to take an issue and turn it into a political or partisan football.
Q And the precedent you were going to cite?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?
Q Of the precedents you were going to cite for Secretary Sebelius Enroll Now?
MR. CARNEY: Let’s see if I have that here. I believe when the Medicare Part D issue was passed in the previous administration that there was similar fundraising done, or similar efforts to engage private and nonprofit institutions into the effort to publicize the enrollment of people into the new program that was started under the previous administration -- and unpaid for we can always remember.
What I can say is that we are aggressively engaging in a wide range of stakeholder conversations about the President’s health care law, as was done, as I mentioned, in previous administrations implementing Medicare Part D and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
The White House and HHS officials routinely and appropriately engage with outside groups on the implementation of the health care law, including educating these groups about what we are doing and finding out about the work they are doing.
Meanwhile, as I mentioned, Republicans are trying to fight old political battles that have been decided -- a law that was passed by Congress and signed into law by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, much discussed and debated in a presidential election that President Obama won. And we are about the business of implementing health care reform so that it can continue to provide benefits to millions of Americans.
Q But you’re bedeviled by the fact that there’s not sufficient funding for the Enroll Now component. Isn’t this why you’re going outside of the system?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think as you know, the Public Health Service Act gives the Secretary -- well, maybe you don't know so I’ll tell you. The Public Health Service Act gives the Secretary the authority to encourage support for educational efforts related to health care. Specifically, it allows her to “support by grant or contract and to encourage others to support private, nonprofit entities working in health information and health promotion, preventive health services, and education in the appropriate use of health care.”
And we, of course, support the Secretary exercising her authority under the law, just, as I mentioned, previous Secretaries have.
Q Thanks, Jay. When the President learned about the findings in the IRS audit in the newspaper, did he ask senior advisors why he was learning about this from the newspaper?
MR. CARNEY: No, I don't believe he did. I wasn’t present when he learned about it, but I know that he was not happy with the apparent conduct -- because, again, this was incomplete information; the IG report had not been finalized or released. But I think that the tenor of the President’s public comments about it both in his statement Tuesday night and his public comments the next day reflect his feelings upon learning about the apparent conduct by IRS officials in Cincinnati.
Q Just a quick follow-on. Did he ever ask -- not necessarily in a critical vein, but just to sort of get a sense of how the White House is operating -- why he wasn’t informed of that earlier? Or was that self-apparent?
MR. CARNEY: I was asked yesterday about this. The President believes and has faith -- believes that the Counsel’s decision was the right one and has faith in her judgment on these issues. This is the kind of thing that was an ongoing -- again, let’s be clear. Let’s step back and look at what we’re talking about here. This was an uncompleted, ongoing, independent Inspector General’s audit of activity by IRS personnel that turned out to be wholly inappropriate and wrong. It would have been wrong for him to do anything about it while the audit was still underway. It would have at the very least created the appearance of intervening in an ongoing investigation or audit. And the cardinal rule here, as it should be, is that you do not intervene in ongoing criminal investigations or ongoing independent Inspector General audits.
Q I understand your point. Mine is more -- that was so obvious to him that he didn't need to ask anyone about why he wasn’t informed --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I wasn’t privy to every conversation that he had about this, but I know that he has faith in his Counsel’s judgment, which I think has been testified to by numerous people who actually know what they're talking about in this area.
And this is not about public relations. Obviously when a story like this breaks, we had to make the decision not to react to it until we had the actual facts, as opposed to reacting to partial information that appeared in the press. And that can be judged as inconvenient from a communications point of view, but it’s absolutely the right thing to do from a substance and policy point of view.
MR. CARNEY: Yes, sir.
Q Thank you. Last week, when the Turkish Prime Minister was here, President Obama said that they both agreed that Assad needs to go. He needs to transfer power to transitional body, and that is the only way that they are going to resolve this crisis. Does it mean that the military option now is off of table, or “all options on the table” rule is still valid?
MR. CARNEY: All options remain on the table as they have been. Regardless of the options that the President is reviewing and the options that he implements, it is absolutely our position that the only outcome that is right for the Syria people is the transition in Syria from the Assad era to a post-Assad era. And it has long been our position that the best way to accomplish that is through a political transition.
That is why we have, with the Russians, reinvigorated the Geneva framework or approach that we talked about -- the Geneva Communiqué -- that envisions that political transition. And we have made clear that in our view, the Syrian people have made clear that the future cannot include Bashar al-Assad because he has the blood of his own people on his hands and he has proven himself to be a terrible tyrant and a murderer of his own people.
Q So one detail -- the U.S. administration is okay with negotiating with the Assad regime, but not --
MR. CARNEY: I think we have made clear that it is up to the Syrian opposition to decide in that transition with whom they will have those conversations, which members of the present government or the Assad government they would have those discussions. They have made clear that they do not view Assad as having a role in that process. We have made clear that we do not believe that Assad has any place in Syria's future. But obviously, the decisions about the process itself and who participates in it would have to be agreed to by the Syrian opposition.
Q Jay, can we just go back to the IRS here real quick? Because there have been a few questions --
MR. CARNEY: Hans, I'll get to you. I'll get to you.
MR. CARNEY: There are important matters around the world -- Syria is one of them. Go ahead.
Q Jay, are you welcoming Iran for the next Geneva Two meetings? What's your position on that?
MR. CARNEY: I'll have to get back to you. I don’t have an answer to that question.
Q Okay. So can I just clarify on the Childress-Patterson meeting, was that separate and distinct from the --
MR. CARNEY: Well, there were -- it was communication.
Q Okay, excuse me. Was the Patterson-Childress communication different than what Ruemmler was -- did that happen in a different forum than when Ruemmler was informed on the 24th?
MR. CARNEY: Different forum?
Q Was Ruemmler part of that conversation?
MR. CARNEY: As I said yesterday, when the White House Counsel, Kathy Ruemmler, was informed of this she informed some members of senior staff, including the Chief of Staff. Mark Childress, Deputy Chief of Staff, was among those who was informed.
Q So the Childress --
MR. CARNEY: And it was after that that he had the communication --
Q Okay, so the Childress-Patterson kind of communication happens after April 24th?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure if it happened the same day, but it was after he was informed by Kathy Ruemmler about this issue.
Q Okay. And then who initiated that conversation?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know.
Q You don’t know whether it came from the White House to the Treasury?
MR. CARNEY: As I said yesterday, there were discussions between Office of the General Counsel and Chief of Staff office in Treasury, on the one hand, and Counsel's and Chief of Staff's office on the other about the issue of timing and the issue of the findings themselves. And that is the context within which the communication between Mr. Childress and Mr. Patterson took place.
Q When Ruemmler made the announcement internally, did she do that through email? Did she do it at a staff meeting? When and how was that done? And was it done on the 24th or the 23rd?
MR. CARNEY: Again -- I think two things -- one, it was not an announcement. It was she informed some members of the senior staff.
Q Which members?
MR. CARNEY: I think I've just said -- Denis McDonough, Mark Childress, some other members of senior staff.
Q And only those two knew?
MR. CARNEY: No, I didn't say that. But here's the point. Some members of senior staff were informed by Kathy Ruemmler about the fact that --
Q And how were they informed?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know that she -- she may have had conversations, but there was certainly an email perhaps. But the point --
Q Perhaps or for certain?
MR. CARNEY: Hans, can I ask what is it that you're trying --
Q I'm trying to figure out how people in this building knew, what they knew, and when they knew it.
MR. CARNEY: Let's step back. Here's what they knew.
Q -- for not asking precise questions. Here I am asking precise questions and you're acting like I'm petulant.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'm just trying to figure out what it is -- we've provided you -- I can't believe anybody would ever call you petulant. (Laughter.)
Q Or you forthcoming.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we've provided you with a significant amount of information about how we found out, who found out, conversations that took place. And the fundamental fact is that every action we took was mindful of the need to allow the Inspector General to continue and finalize and complete his audit. We did not in any way intervene, because we follow the cardinal rule here. And our only effort here was to find out information about when this information would be made public and what it would be, because, again, we don't intervene in internal Inspector General investigations. I think I've given you a lot of --
Q Do you know how Ruemmler informed members?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have more information to give you here. The fact is that she found out; she alerted some other members of senior staff; there were conversations with Treasury involving some members of senior staff. The President was not informed. The whole nature of the conversation was simply about the fact that this Inspector General was completing an audit that would likely find, as I said yesterday, that IRS line personnel had improperly targeted conservative groups. And our interest was simply in finding out when the report would be concluded and when that information would be made public.
Q At the risk of being petulant, on April 24th, when Ms. Ruemmler informed some White House staff -- I realize you might not want to name everyone -- did she inform you? Were you one of the people?
MR. CARNEY: I was not informed.
Q Are you disappointed in that? Since this -- well, not just from your standpoint here, but in terms of you're the press secretary and this was going to have to be conveyed to the public at some point, and now the White House Counsel has an inkling officially that there's a report that maybe a bunch of conservative groups were targeted and it might create a political firestorm, shouldn't the press secretary have been brought in?
MR. CARNEY: I think I found out -- or would have found out the way that -- let's back up. The Inspector General was completing a report. If that report contained the information that was indicated, it would be something that we would want to respond to. And as you saw, the President responded very firmly to it.
I was perfectly capable of assisting in that response upon learning the information. Again, the suggestion that I should have known or that the President should have known earlier so that I could have said something or done something, again, suggests all the --
Q But you need to be prepared to respond.
MR. CARNEY: It suggests that -- all these questions suggest that somehow the President should have done something in the midst of an independent --
Q I didn’t suggest that.
MR. CARNEY: Or I. What if I come out and started --
Q Because you’re the -- you have to cover this podium and deal with these questions for days.
MR. CARNEY: And I think that we -- the response that we had upon the release of that report was very clear. The President spoke firmly about how outraged he was by the behavior. He made clear that we would hold -- that he expected people to be held accountable, and that changes ought to be made.
Q So what day did you learn?
MR. CARNEY: The same day the President did.
Q From news reports?
MR. CARNEY: Correct.
Q So no one in this building told you?
MR. CARNEY: That’s correct.
Q Okay. And then real quick on the timeline. Yesterday the timeline changed a little bit, maybe just by a few days, but it did change from the week of April 22nd, Ms. Ruemmler being notified. You said yesterday it was actually a broad heads-up, not detailed, but a broad heads-up on April 16th. Are you now confident from that podium that April 16th is the actual day that anyone in this building was notified that this report was being put together? Or might this change again? Are you saying now this is it?
MR. CARNEY: I am confident that this is when the first notification came as part of a series of items that were being included in a general heads-up about pending matters to a member of the White House Counsel’s office. And the White House Counsel herself was not made aware of this until April 24th. Again -- because I think it’s important -- because all of these questions about what we knew in April of 2013 about an ongoing independent Inspector General inquiry has no bearing on the conduct itself, which concluded in May of 2012 --
Q Unless someone knew before that. That’s part of my question. Are we certain April 16th is it, or did someone know in 2012 in this building?
MR. CARNEY: Not in this building. And I think it’s been made clear that, like Congressman Issa and others, others at Treasury were aware that there was an Inspector General audit going on. It was publicly posted we’ve come to learn by the Inspector General in the fall of 2012 that this audit was being conducted.
But in terms of the fact that the IG was concluding his audit and that the findings were, at least preliminarily, that there had been this conduct, we learned about it first in that full form on April 24th, as I said yesterday, and prior to that as part of a number of items on April 16th.
Q And in terms of voracity, how do you know that it’s April 24th in terms of like has the White House Counsel done some formal review, gone through email, interviewed people, just to make sure that someone in this building did not --
MR. CARNEY: Again, Ed, I think it’s been looked at and we’ve provided you the information. And, again, I would just --it would be great for everybody to step back and ask themselves what is it that we're learning about the White House and what --
Q The voracity of when the White House knew something and tells the public that they learned of it is an important issue, you would agree?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely. And we've been absolutely forthcoming about that and provided more specificity than I think has been the case in previous administrations on matters like this. And the fundamental fact here is that we did not intervene in an ongoing Inspector General audit of the IRS because we shouldn’t and it would be inappropriate to do so. We waited to respond and to take any action for the completion of that report.
It is also -- again, going to the tenor and focus of your questions -- it is important to note that the report itself and the Inspector General himself has said that they found no indication of outside influence or political motivation behind this. And regardless of the motivation, by the way, as the President has made clear, the activity was improper, inappropriate, and wrong.
Q Last thing. With the James Rosen case, yesterday you repeatedly said it's an ongoing criminal investigation so you can't comment. Overnight, various Justice Department officials have told Huffington Post, Washington Post, maybe others that they have no plans to press criminal charges against James Rosen. Is that your understanding? Is that what the White House --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I obviously would not know about or have comment on prosecutorial decisions in an ongoing criminal investigation.
But, look, I'm glad you asked me this because I wanted to follow up on our discussions yesterday, because I know this is an issue that everyone here cares deeply about and it's an issue I care deeply about. It's something I have talked to the President about in the past, and it's something that I talked to the President about yesterday after the briefing.
And while, again, he cannot and I cannot comment on the specifics of any ongoing criminal matter, I can tell you that in our conversation yesterday he reiterated just how important he believes it is that reporters, that all of you and your colleagues, are able to do your jobs in a free and open way. And as he has said, he believes there is an important balance to be found here, and he thinks the questions about how that balance is being struck are entirely legitimate and he welcomes the public discussions, again, about the broad question of the balance that needs to be struck.
Because there is no question that when classified information is leaked, that is a violation of the law. And it is a serious matter, as we have seen in some cases, and as Director Mueller and others have stated about some of the investigation -- matters under investigation. It is also vital to our democracy -- and the President believes this deeply -- that the press is allowed to pursue investigative journalism freely. He is a fierce defender of the First Amendment, of press freedom, and will continue to be.
And you asked, again, about a specific matter, and I can't comment on the specifics of any ongoing criminal matter. But if you're asking me whether the President believes that journalists should be prosecuted for doing their jobs, the answer is no.
Q Jay, during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the IRS today, soon-to-be-former acting commissioner Steve Miller said that the IRS has, in his words, "clarity" on the person who initiated the practice of targeting conservative groups, but that he didn’t know the name, in his language, "off the top of his head." Will you tell us the name of the person?
MR. CARNEY: Again, we don’t have independent information about this. This is an independent Inspector General --
Q This is being done on Capitol Hill. This is not from the IG report; these are conversations happening today. So what does the White House --
MR. CARNEY: I understand that, but --
Q -- hey, this guy knows who it is, we want to know who it is.
MR. CARNEY: Well, we want accountability. That is why the President appointed a new acting commissioner and why he is undertaking the effort to conduct a 30-day top-down review to find out as much information as possible in addition to what we've learned in the IG report about what happened here and who's responsible for the inappropriate behavior, making sure that people are held accountable, and that we take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Again, the question suggests that we have some independent investigative apparatus here that would have insight into this. We don’t. There was an independent IG investigation into this. He reached his conclusions, including that there was this wholly inappropriate activity going on. And the President has spoken very clearly about his views on that.
Q But if you reached out to Jack Lew at Treasury and told him that we'd like this person to resign -- which he did -- isn't it possible that the White House could reach out and say, this guy who we've asked to resign has resigned, and he knows the person who's in charge of this, and without waiting for 30 more days --
MR. CARNEY: Well, Peter, I think you can be sure that one of the purposes of the 30-day review is to find out, with specificity, more detail about what happened and who is responsible, and to hold those people accountable, and also to make sure that there are procedures in place so that it doesn’t happen again. I'm not going to get into individuals as that 30-day review is being conducted. I can simply point you to the information that we all have, which is the IG report that was released last Wednesday.
Q I brought that up only because when Lois Lerner made her comment on the Friday before, we were saying the report is not done so we can’t conclude, even though she apologized and said this is in fact what happened. In this case, it’s another person saying this is in fact what happened. So I figured we might be --
MR. CARNEY: But the IG report has said this is in fact what happened. Getting more information beyond the IG report is part of what the 30-day top-down review was about. There’s obviously, as we’ve said, legitimate congressional oversight to be conducted here and I think also the Department of Justice has said it’s looking into this matter.
Q -- but then what?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not even sure what you’re -- I think that, appropriately, the White House is not doing an independent investigation of the IRS. That is happening in places where it should happen. And that includes the IRS itself, overseen by Treasury; it includes Congress; and it includes the Department of Justice.
Q Let me ask you just briefly on a different topic. I know that the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, is testifying today and a Senate panel said that Apple is avoiding billions of dollars in U.S. taxes by shifting its profits to foreign affiliates. Obviously this doesn’t help in terms of the White House’s view on the way taxes and companies in the U.S. should help their own country in terms of paying taxes. What’s the White House’s position on Apple? Or on this situation?
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the question. I can say that I can’t comment, for obvious reasons, on a specific company’s taxes. But the broader issue is one that is of concern to the President and one that he’s focused on, because in terms of the policy matters that it raises, the report by Senators Levin and McCain raises a set of broader issues around companies that ship their profits and their jobs offshore.
And it is our view that Senators Levin and McCain have done an important job in raising awareness of this issue and putting forward ideas to cut back on the abuses. As you know, the President has long argued that the tax code today is tilted against companies that want to create jobs in America while it rewards companies for shipping jobs and profits overseas.
As a result, he has long championed a set of proposals to ensure that American companies cannot use offshore profit shifting to avoid paying taxes, including a proposal for a minimum tax on foreign earnings that would provide a comprehensive solution to this problem.
We look forward to working with Senators McCain and Levin, and anyone else who will work with us to reform our tax code in a way that makes sure that everyone is paying their fair share and that our tax code is designed to reward job creation opportunities in the United States instead of tax avoidance and profit-shifting opportunities to low-tax countries around the world.
And as anyone knows who’s been covering the President from the beginning here, and certainly in the discussions we’ve had about tax policy in the last few years, this has been a major priority of his because he thinks it is inexplicable that our tax code would actually be written in a way that rewards companies for taking jobs and profits offshore, and thereby penalizes companies for doing what we want them to do, which is create jobs and opportunity here in the United States.
Q And very briefly, concluding on the tornadoes that are taking place, during the Sandy aid bill deliberations, 36 Republicans in the Senate voted against the Sandy aid bill. In the words of Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe, he described it as a slush fund because it had monies not just for those in the Northeast who had been affected, but other places like the Virgin Islands, he says, and roof and roads in Washington, D.C. Would the President exclusively sign an aid bill going forward if the money is limited exclusively to Oklahoma, or will he sign a bill if there is anything outside of Oklahoma in that aid bill?
MR. CARNEY: I think you’re way ahead of the process and any assessment of what needs there might be in the recovery effort after this terrible severe weather and tornado in Oklahoma.
Right now, as I said, FEMA has sufficient resources to respond. It has generally been our position that we have been appreciative of Congress’s willingness to work with us to ensure that people and regions affected by these kinds of natural disasters are assisted right away and that the resources necessary are provided to them. But, again, that is a general proposition. We are not at the stage yet in assessing the impact of the storms and weather in Oklahoma to know what kind of needs there will be.
Q Yesterday the President called President of Lebanon and raised concern about Hezbollah’s role in fighting on the side of the Assad regime. Is this a sign the White House is concerned that this link-up, which is also involving Iran, could tip the conflict back towards the Assad government?
MR. CARNEY: It's a sign that we are concerned, as are our partners and allies, about the expansion of this conflict. We have condemned, and condemn again, Hezbollah's direct intervention in the assault on Qusayr -- if I'm pronouncing that correctly -- where Hezbollah fighters are playing a significant role in the regime's offensive. Hezbollah's occupation of villages in Syria and its support for the regime and pro-Assad militias exacerbate and inflame regional sectarian tensions and perpetuate the regime's campaign of terror against the Syrian people.
I think, as asked earlier about something we've discussed in the past about Iran's support for Assad and Hezbollah's support for Assad, I think it says a lot about Assad that this is where he is looking for assistance. And we strongly condemn that direct intervention. And as the President reiterated in his call with the Lebanese President yesterday, we continue to fully support Lebanon's stated policy of "disassociation" from the Syria crisis, and urge all parties in the region to act with restraint and respect for Lebanon's stability and security.
Q Does this growing role of Hezbollah complicate or sway the deliberations the President is taking about how U.S. support for the rebels will evolve?
MR. CARNEY: I think that there are a number of things that are factored into the deliberations about the options that the President's team is constantly reviewing. The fact that you have this involvement by Hezbollah is something that we strongly condemn because of the effects that it has and the impact it has on inflaming regional tensions and sectarian tensions.
It is precisely why we need to move forward with a political transition in Syria, so that we can create -- or begin to create a post-Assad Syria. And that's why we're working with our allies and partners in the Syrian opposition to help bring that about, and will continue to do so.
Q Follow up on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q What are the thoughts here about reported Saudi and other regional support for some of the opposition groups in Syria -- financial and otherwise support -- that could also affect the transition that the U.S. wants to see there?
MR. CARNEY: I'm sorry, be more specific. What do you mean?
Q Well, there are reports that the Saudis are supporting some of the opposition groups in Syria. And that, if you follow some of the logic you've just said, could also prolong the situation and delay a transition.
MR. CARNEY: Well, without commenting on the specifics of that report because I'm not sure which groups you're talking about, obviously we are providing direct assistance to the Syrian opposition. We are also providing direct assistance to the Supreme Military Council of the opposition, non-lethal assistance.
It is certainly our view that the violence in Syria is the responsibility of and was precipitated by Bashar al-Assad, and that the transition to a peaceful Syria will be hastened by Assad's departure. It is certainly appropriate that the opposition is capable of organizing itself and defending itself. And we have provided non-lethal assistance to the opposition as well as a significant amount of humanitarian aid to the Syrian people.
It has long been our view that we need to take steps, and as we evaluate steps that we do take and that we could take, we look at them through the prism of what will actually help bring about that transition more quickly, and we look at possible options and ask the question, will embracing this option actually have the counter-effect of prolonging or cause unintended consequences that could make the situation worse, exacerbate it in some way.
So these are -- I think the President has spoken about this, and these are the kinds of assessments that are made all the time as we look at the range of very difficult challenges in Syria.
Q To what extent is the U.S. coordinating with the Saudis on support for specific --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't have any specific information about that. I can tell you that we coordinate with our partners and allies around the region and the world in assistance -- in dealing with this issue and in our assistance to the Syrian people and opposition. But I don't have anything specific on Saudi Arabia.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: Peter.
Q I’m sorry. Don't mean to prolong it. (Laughter.) Don't mean to prolong it, I’m just saying --
MR. CARNEY: Better watch out. She’s tough. (Laughter.)
Q She’s tough, but she should be. A quick question. It’s not actually meant to be argumentative. I’m actually just curious about the answer. You just talked about the need to protect secrets and classified information and that's a crime. I am curious, though, when you were a reporter, did any source ever disclose or discuss classified information with you when you were on this side of the podium?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think the point that I made, speaking generally and not about a specific case, is that the President doesn't believe that a reporter should be prosecuted for doing his or her job.
Q I got that part. I was curious about your experience.
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s not about me, Peter. I mean, I think that as a reporter --
Q Well, you often tell us that you’re --
MR. CARNEY: As a reporter, I think I am, at the very least, more intimately aware of these issues than some folks who haven’t had that experience, reporting especially in Washington. And I understand the President’s commitment to and passion for ensuring that there is a defense of the First Amendment and a defense of press freedom and a balance that allows the press to pursue investigative journalism freely.
It is also true -- and I understood this as a reporter, and I’m sure that those of you in this room and your colleagues understand it, too -- that there are secrets, there is classified information that needs to be protected because -- again, I cannot -- this should not be analyzed in relation to any specific case, but it is certainly the case that leaking of specific information that has to do with secret operations or other sensitive matters can harm our national security, can endanger the lives of American men and women. It can endanger the lives of people who provide assistance to the United States and its national security interests.
And these are weighty and serious matters, and it is important to remember that the release of that information is a crime and that it is -- if the government did not take any action, then we might as well just close down the Situation Room and allow those who would do America harm and Americans harm know everything that we’re doing -- because if you -- so that's why there has to be a balance, right? There has to be that balance. And the balance is very important to the President. And I think that it’s reflected in the stands he’s taken in his past, and it’s reflected in what he has said and done as President.
And he is, again, very understanding of the questions that are being asked about the need to find that balance. He thinks they're legitimate and believes that that kind of discussion is healthy for a democracy.
Q My own question is whether you confronted that choice, knowingly possessing classified information you were given by somebody who might have done it illegally, and had to make a decision whether to publish this or not.
MR. CARNEY: Not personally. There are obviously -- every instance is different, as you know. And it is certainly the case that this administration, previous administrations, when information is pending, that we try to work sometimes with news organizations, that an administration would work with news organizations in terms of the timing of the release of that classified information in order to protect as best as we can the national security interests of the United States.
But in terms of my past experience, it’s not particularly relevant. Because I do -- I understand and appreciate, as does the President, the broader questions here, and I wanted to make clear today -- and I want to thank Ed for asking and you for following up -- the fact that even though we cannot comment on the specific cases, and it would be wholly inappropriate if we did, the President is very cognizant of the broader issues here and of the debate here, and cares deeply about press freedom and the need for reporters to be able to work freely.
Thank you all very much.
2:10 P.M. EDT
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AMENDMENT TO EXECUTIVE ORDER 13639
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Amendment to Executive Order 13639. Section 2 of Executive Order 13639 of March 28, 2013 (Establishment of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration), is amended by striking subsection 2(a) in its entirety and inserting in lieu thereof the following:
"(a) The Commission shall be composed of not more than ten members appointed by the President. The members shall be drawn from among distinguished individuals with knowledge about or experience in the administration of State or local elections, as well as representatives of successful customer service-oriented businesses, and any other individuals with knowledge or experience determined by the President to be of value to the Commission."
Sec. 2. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:
(i) the authority granted by law to a department, agency, or the head thereof; or
(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.
(b) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.
Readout of the President and Vice President’s meeting with Dreamers and Family Members of Undocumented Immigrants
This morning, the President and the Vice President met in the Oval Office with young immigrants who received deferred action and with the siblings and spouses of undocumented immigrants. This meeting was an important opportunity for the President and the Vice President to meet with families who are directly affected by our nation’s broken immigration system.
The President and the Vice President were moved by the stories of courage and determination of these young immigrants and their families. The Dreamers shared how their lives have been positively affected by the deferred action process and emphasized that they and their families need a permanent solution that will allow them to fully contribute to the country they call home.
At the meeting, the President reiterated his commitment to passing a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill this year. He made clear that while the current bill is not perfect, it does represent an important step towards the broad principles that need to be part of any immigration reform package.
The President underscored that their stories are a good reminder that immigration isn’t just a policy issue, but it’s about our families, our communities and it’s about our common future. The President and the Vice President thanked participants for their leadership, courage and on-going efforts to move immigration reform legislation forward. The President also encouraged them to continue to share their stories with the American public to move the hearts and minds of individual leaders and to propel the immigration debate forward.
The following people participated in the today’s meeting. Participants are visiting Washington to speak to their elected representatives as the Senate considers immigration reform legislation:
• Diana Colin. Diana is a legal permanent resident who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. One of her brothers received deferred action.
• Kate Kahan, Legislative Director, Center for Community Change. Kate is the Legislative Director for the Center for Community Change, a national social justice organization that is a member of the Alliance for Citizenship coalition in support of commonsense immigration reform.
• Angie Kim. Angie is a South Korean immigrant who resides in New York, New York; she received deferred action.
• Miguel Leal. Miguel is a U.S. citizen who resides in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. He is an Iraq war veteran. Miguel is an immigrant from Cuba; his wife in undocumented.
• Kevin Lee. Kevin is a South Korean immigrant who received deferred action. He currently resides in Los Angeles, California. Both of his parents are undocumented.
• Mehdi Mahraoui. Mehdi came to the United States from Morocco when he was 7 years old. He is a legal permanent resident and lives in New York, New York. His parents and his older sister remain undocumented.
• Melissa McGuire-Maniau. Melissa’s husband is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Melissa is a U.S. veteran; she and her husband reside in Winter Park, Florida.
• Justino Mora. Justino received deferred action; he currently resides in Los Angeles, California.