|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks at the Arctic Council Ministerial Session
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks at the Arctic Council Ministerial Session in Kiruna, Sweden on May 15, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209403.htm.
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James S. Brady Press Briefing Room 1:26 P.M. EDT MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you for being here today. I’ve often been asked and seen some comments about what it’s like to be up here, having been over there on the firing line, if you will. And I can remember sitting in the chair that Mark Knoller is occupying now when my friend and great predecessor, Mike McCurry, was press secretary, and the day that he came out with a brown paper bag on his head. I can’t do that, because if I did, you wouldn’t be able to see the many faces of Jay in reaction to today’s news -- or yesterday’s, rather -- provided, of course, by our good friends at The Washington Post. But it is, as they say, part of the job. And with that, I have a couple of announcements. First, today, later this afternoon, the President and Senator McCain are meeting to discuss ongoing progress and the importance of common-sense immigration reform, as well as other issues, including ongoing budget negotiations. That’s here, at the White House. Also, I wanted to let you know that as part of his -- Q What time is that? MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a specific time for you, but we’ll get back to you -- but it’s later this afternoon. Q Dinner or lunch? Q Dinner? MR. CARNEY: No, just a meeting here at the White House this afternoon. No early bird dinner. Mental health conference announcement that I have for you today is that as part of his plan to reduce gun violence, President Obama directed Secretary Sebelius and Duncan to launch a national conversation to increase understanding and awareness about mental health. And as part of that effort, on June 3rd, the President and Vice President will host a national conference on mental health. As the administration has repeatedly emphasized, the vast majority of Americans with a mental health problem are not violent and, in fact, they are more likely to be the victims than perpetrators of the crimes. While millions of Americans struggle with mental health problems, those who need help are too often afraid to ask -- to seek it, rather, because of the shame and secrecy associated with mental illness. And the conference will bring together people from across the country, including representatives from state, local, and tribal governments, mental health advocates, educators, health care providers, faith leaders, and individuals who have struggled with mental health problems, to discuss how we can all work together to reduce stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problem recognize the importance of reaching out for assistance. And we’ll have more information about the conference as the date approaches. Finally -- and I’m going to smile for this -- I think you all noticed in the CBO, or I hope you did, the CBO report yesterday, the so-called baseline reestimate. And the improvements in the CBO’s report show that the President’s policies of cutting the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion in a balanced way are contributing to the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II. The most rapid deficit reduction since World War II. While there is still more work to be done to cut the deficit, this is important progress because we strengthen America by growing the economy from the middle out. Working with leaders from both parties, President Obama has cut the deficit by more than half when measured as a share of GDP. This is a balanced deficit reduction that cuts waste, asks millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share in taxes, and preserves investments we need in energy, education, and manufacturing to grow the economy and create jobs. The administration is committed to continuing to work with Congress to create jobs, reduce the deficit, and replace the sequester in a balanced way. Later this week, we understand that CBO will be putting out a reestimate of the President’s budget, which includes, as you know, his plan to replace the economically damaging sequester with a balanced approach to deficit reduction that would help drive stronger economic growth in the short term and the long term. And now I go to Julie Pace. Q Thank you. The President said in his statement last night about the IRS report that he wanted to see those who are responsible held accountable. What does he mean by that? MR. CARNEY: As I said yesterday, the President wanted to see the report by the independent Inspector General into the activity of IRS personnel before he made judgments about that activity. He has seen the report, and you saw his statement. It was categorical and reflected his absolute conviction that the conduct portrayed in the report is inappropriate and, regardless of the motivation, it is wrong. And he expects people to be held accountable if they engaged in inappropriate activity, inappropriate conduct. He expects the Treasury Department and the IRS to take all the necessary actions to ensure that this kind of thing cannot happen again. And he insists that this happen because it is of the utmost importance, in the President’s mind, that the American people understand and believe that the IRS applies our tax laws in a neutral and fair way to everyone. And he is -- feels very strongly about this, as I think you saw when he took a question about it and answered it in the hypothetical, if you will, if the reports on what had happened turned out to be true. And now that we know what the IG report has said, you saw what his views are about it in the statement he released. And he’ll be meeting with Treasury Department officials later today to talk about the next steps that he hopes will be taken to achieve the things that I just said: making sure that people are held accountable for their conduct, for their activities, and that the steps necessary are -- the necessary steps are taken to ensure that this does not happen again. Q But that still doesn’t answer the question about what he thinks being held accountable means. Does he think that people should lose their jobs if they were involved in this? MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m not going to get into specifics about what outcomes should happen here, but I will tell you that the President feels very strongly about this and that he will -- he wants to see that the actions taken, as revealed by the Treasury report, that are inappropriate, are met with consequences. And he will have that discussion with Treasury officials, and he will make clear to Treasury Department leaders that he expects action. Q Is he going to leave the decisions, though, about how these people should be held accountable to the Treasury Department? Or is he going to -- MR. CARNEY: I think there are -- there are obviously procedures in place here about lines of authority, and I will direct you to the Treasury Department for how that works in terms of Treasury’s oversight of the IRS. But the President’s views have been made I think abundantly clear in the statement he provided last night and will be made abundantly clear in the meetings that he’s having. Q But could you just give us a sense of the President’s thinking in deciding to push again for the reporter shield bill? MR. CARNEY: As you know, Julie, the President has long supported media shield legislation in the Senate, during the 2008 campaign, and as President. In fact, under his leadership, the administration successfully negotiated a balanced bill in the Senate in 2009 that passed the Judiciary Committee by a significant vote, bipartisan vote, and was widely supported by the news media and journalism organizations represented in this room. And he has been in contact with -- or the White House has been in contact with Senator Schumer, and we are glad to see that that legislation will be reintroduced, because he believes strongly that we need to provide the protections to the media that this legislation would do. Q The Justice Department has introduced a criminal investigation into the IRS matter, and Speaker Boehner suggested that people responsible should be sent to jail if it’s appropriate. Does the President feel that that kind of outcome would be a necessary outcome for this? MR. CARNEY: Well, obviously a criminal investigation conducted by the Justice Department is something that the Justice Department would have to address. Generally speaking, if there is criminality involved and proved then, in a general matter, in any criminal investigation, it is the President’s view that it should be met with punishment. But I cannot, obviously, comment on the investigation that the Attorney General announced the other day. What I can say is that the President believes that the conduct reported in the IG’s review is inappropriate, it is wrong, and there needs to be consequences for that conduct and there need to be steps taken to ensure that it doesn’t happen again. Q And on the media shield law, can you comment on the timing of this? Is this an effort to counterbalance the controversy over the AP records? MR. CARNEY: Look, again, we can't -- there’s a criminal investigation on. I think the Attorney General addressed the nature of that investigation. As is entirely appropriate, we are not aware of tactics involved in the investigation or any of the particulars about such an investigation. What I can tell you is that the President’s support for this kind of media shield law is well documented, it is longstanding, and he does believe that it is appropriate to resubmit that legislation and to try to convert it into law at this time. And I said yesterday, he is Commander-in-Chief, and as any Commander-in-Chief should do -- should be, rather -- he is very mindful of the national security implications of the leaking of classified information. I, again, can only point you to the public reports, but the Attorney General did say that this investigation involves what he called a particularly egregious national security leak. And these are serious matters, because the leaking of classified information can harm our national security interests and it can endanger the lives of American men and women overseas. Separate from that, the President believes that the balance that we need to achieve needs to allow the maximum amount of freedom for the media to pursue investigative journalism that's possible. And the media shield law that he supports -- or bill that he supports would go a long way towards achieving that, and I would note that the bill that was negotiated by this administration in 2009 that passed out of committee successfully in a bipartisan manner had the support of numerous media organizations. Q But why with all the other things he has on his plate now would he choose this time to reintroduce -- MR. CARNEY: Well, I think again without commenting on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation, he thinks it’s an appropriate time to work with the Senate, in this case Senator Schumer, to reintroduce this legislation. Q Has the President spoken with Secretary Lew about what his expectations are for accountability? MR. CARNEY: I think he will be speaking with Treasury leaders today. Q But there’s been no communication to date? MR. CARNEY: I think that it was entirely appropriate that, as I said and the President said earlier, that we could not pass judgment on the Inspector General’s report based on partial information provided in media stories about that report. We needed to wait for the report to be delivered. It was delivered late yesterday. The President commented on it immediately. Q I assume you won’t say whether or not the President believes interim Director Miller should or shouldn’t resign. But is there any plan to name a permanent director? Is it time to do that? MR. CARNEY: I don't have any personnel announcements. I don't have any personnel announcements to make. I can tell you that the President believes that we need to look at the findings of the Inspector General and his review and to make determinations about the need to hold people accountable for their conduct. I’m not addressing that to any -- about any specific person. This is something that will obviously be the subject of discussions and actions at Treasury and the IRS, and as is appropriate oversight by Congress. But the President’s view on this is very clear and very, I think, strong, as you saw in the statement last night. Q Okay, more broadly, the President has a lot of goals for the year: gun control, immigration reform, entitlement and tax reform, to name a few. How concerned he is that this is going to distract from his agenda? MR. CARNEY: It’s a good question, Jessica. And I would just say that -- and I think a little perspective here is required. These are the kinds of issues that we deal with here in this room and that the appropriate people deal with in an administration, but the vast majority of the people working for the President every day are working on the agenda that he laid out in his State of the Union address and in his inaugural address -- an agenda that is focused on what we can do to keep the economy growing; what we can to invest in infrastructure and in education; what we can do to expand our civil liberties; what we can do to enhance our national security. This is the foundation of what he believes he’s here to do, and it’s what he focuses on every day. And it includes -- you mentioned action to reduce gun violence. It includes, as I just mentioned, with the mental health conference that he and the Vice President will be hosting, it includes continuing to work on issues that he believes are necessary for America’s leaders to take to reduce gun violence and that enjoy, in that case and in almost the cases of the agenda that he supports, the support of the American people. And that's what -- if you look at what reporting that's probably been done by CNN and others, these are the things that the American people expect their leaders to be focused on. And I’m not suggesting that some of these other matters are not important. I mean, you can tell by the way that the President has responded to these revelations about conduct by IRS personnel that he feels passionately about it and he expects action. But he is focused on an agenda that is focused on the middle class and building the economy. Q But, Jay, recently the President has gone out to the American people to ask for their support lobbying Congress for his agenda. And given this trio of controversies together, some people feel calls into question their faith in government overall. Do you worry or does the President worry that the people will lose faith in him and in government? MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President is concerned when you see the kind of activity documented in the Inspector General’s report by IRS personnel, that that kind of conduct, no matter what the motivation or lack of motivation there is behind it, that that can undermine people’s faith in the IRS in particular and the essential notion that the IRS enforces our tax laws in a neutral and fair way. That is fundamental and essential, and that’s why the President has the attitude that he has towards this and why he’s going to insist and demand that action be taken. Jon. Q Jay, does the President still have confidence in the acting IRS commissioner? MR. CARNEY: Again, Jon, I’m not going to get into personnel. The fact of the matter is the President will be discussing these issues with Treasury leaders later today, and I think his views on the overall IG report have been conveyed to the public and to you. So I’m not going to get into personnel matters. Q The IRS leadership response to the report, which is included at the end of the report, says -- acknowledges some minor problems in methodology, basically, but says, “We believe that frontline career employees that made the decisions acted out of a desire for efficiency and not out of any political or partisan viewpoint.” And the IRS says that these issues at this point have been resolved. Does the President buy that? MR. CARNEY: Well, the President believes that the Treasury Department, as he has directed, needs to hold those responsible for these failures accountable and that they need to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations -- each of them -- is implemented quickly so that such conduct never happens again. And you pointed out the observations of the IG audit or report, and I think that’s significant because intention is a part of the story here. But regardless of the intent, the President believes the conduct was wrong; it is inappropriate to use the kind of criteria that were used -- whatever the goal was, efficiency or otherwise -- to make the decisions that were made about implementing the laws regarding these kinds of 501-(c)(4) organizations; and that he expects those changes to be made, all of the Inspector General’s recommendations to be implemented, and for those responsible for the failures that we’ve seen be held accountable. Q But let me just ask that last part again. Does the President believe the IRS when they say that none of this was politically motivated in any way, that the only goal here was efficiency? MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is that the President has read the IG report. The IG report says that, in its interviews, that everyone they talked to said that they were not motivated by anybody on the outside; that this was not for political or partisan reasons. Q And he believes it? MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t know that he has any reason to doubt it. This is an independent Inspector General. What I can say is that what questions need still to be answered should be answered, and that’s his view; and that oversight is an important part of this -- legitimate oversight is an important part of this, and we would support legitimate oversight into this matter. In the meantime, we need and expect action to be taken in response to this report. Q And just one more thing. The report also says that on August 4th of 2011, that the chief counsel at the IRS -- I believe that’s William Wilkins, appointed by President Obama in 2009; this is one of only two political appointees at the IRS -- that the chief counsel was briefed on this back in 2011. Did he share that information with the White House? MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to look at that. I don’t know that that’s the case. I would point you to the Treasury Department for more information about I think the meeting that we’re talking about or that is represented in that. Q But shouldn’t he have? This is one of the President’s political appointees, chief counsel. MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is what I said yesterday: The President found out about this through media reports on Friday. That’s how I found out about it. The White House Counsel’s Office was notified a few weeks ago, through the Treasury Department, about the Inspector General’s review and that it was coming to a conclusion. And that is a fairly routine matter, when an Inspector General review is being concluded and will be made public, that there is a notification. It was a topline notification, and it was also made clear that the matter was still under review and not completed. And that is what we know about this matter until -- what we knew about this matter until we saw the report yesterday. Q The purpose of briefing the chief counsel, according to the IG, was so that everybody would have the latest information on the issue. As the President’s political appointee over there, shouldn’t there have been an effort for him to brief you? MR. CARNEY: Well, you can say what should have been or shouldn’t have been. What I can tell you is what to my knowledge I’m aware of. Major. Q Couple things. You mentioned just a second ago, whatever questions need to be answered. What are the questions that the President has about what is known and unknown with the IRS? MR. CARNEY: Well, the President, as you know, and as most of us have done, digested the lengthy Inspector General’s report. He will be having conversations with Treasury officials this afternoon. I think that the information that we've learned through the Inspector General’s report is certainly sufficient, in his mind, to call for action, and that's why he’s calling for action and that actions be taken. I'm simply saying -- Q What questions does he have? MR. CARNEY: I don't have a conversation readout for you -- Q -- by whether this was politically motivated or not? MR. CARNEY: Jon asked that question and I would point you to the IG report, and we have no reason to doubt the IG report. But we certainly understand that oversight is a -- legitimate oversight is a necessary part of this and that actions need to be taken to hold people accountable for their failures and to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Q Is he also curious about the testimony given to Congress, which appears to be a direct contradiction to what the IG report lays out in terms of what was disclosed to Congress when asked specifically about whether or not conservative groups were being scrutinized? MR. CARNEY: Well, if you're talking about IRS leadership, I think that the President believes that -- and this applies to all personnel involved -- that whatever the intention here, that failures that are identified in the IG’s report need to result in consequences and that actions need to be taken to hold people responsible. I don't have a specific and I won't get into a specific about which individual or individuals should be held responsible. That's the subject for conversations between the President and the Treasury, and especially for the Treasury Department and the IRS to address. Q Does the President believe, broadly, that either intentionally or inadvertently misleading Congress is, by itself, something that would be subject to dismissal? MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm not going to get into actions with regards to personnel. Q Why not? MR. CARNEY: Because it’s inappropriate to project what actions might be taken. There are methods that have to be followed, and that's appropriate. But what I can tell you is that accountability is essential as far as this President is concerned, and that the actions taken by IRS personnel, as documented in this Inspector General report, are inappropriate and wrong, and they should not have happened and they need to be corrected, and those who are responsible for the failures need to be held accountable. Q Can you tell us who he will be meeting with from Treasury? MR. CARNEY: Treasury leadership. I'm not sure of all members of it, but it will include the Treasury Secretary and Deputy Treasury Secretary and others. But I don't have a full list. Q Will there be any coverage? MR. CARNEY: No, it’s a private meeting. Q Now, yesterday there was a dustup here on the podium where you suggested that Republicans fabricated, intentionally, emails related to the Benghazi talking points. There have been requests today from the Hill that the White House release them all -- all the relevant emails so the public can have a full vetting of this and evaluate it in clear light of day. Is the White House willing to do that? MR. CARNEY: Well, let me answer that -- the two parts of that. First of all, what I said is I was asked about a report where a news organization had the actual email that had been reported on previously and the actual email was substantively different from what had been reported on, including things that were put in quotations. And that's just a fact. And I think that it goes to the motivations of the GOP obsession with this matter -- and “obsession” is a word that I am adopting from print reports, it is not just mine -- and it reflects the fundamental fact here that when it comes to the much discussed talking points, the issue that caused the concern to begin with was the fact that Ambassador Rice, on the Sunday shows, using the talking points provided to her, said that it is our understanding, our best understanding at the time, that there had been spontaneous demonstrations that then led to the violent attack and assault on the facility in Benghazi. It is absolutely true that that assessment turned out to be wrong. What is also true is what we have maintained from the beginning, that that assessment was made by and drafted by the CIA, the intelligence community. And when it proved not to be the case, we acknowledged that. And we made clear from the beginning that the information that we had in real time in the days after the attack in Benghazi would, of course, evolve as more information became available, and our assessments would evolve as more information became available. But when you have an assessment about the -- if you go back to what originally caused the accusations by the Republicans about the so-called talking points, it was this assertion that there had been demonstrations and the -- what turned out to be the case that there hadn’t been. What is essential to know is that that assertion was made from the beginning by the intelligence community, as the President said the other day, and that was the best understanding that the IC had at that time. And, of course, the intelligence in the early days after an incident like that, especially in a place like Libya, is incomplete and imperfect. And as more information became available, we made it available. And I think that’s the essential fact here that has I think been obscured often in the reporting on this. Q But can you answer my question -- are you willing to release the emails? If it’s all benign as you described -- MR. CARNEY: I didn’t mean to. I just forgot the comma to go into the second part. Q I mean, if it’s all just benign and a part of the agency process, as you describe, let the country take a look at it. Is that something the White House is willing to do? MR. CARNEY: I can say a couple things about this. In our cooperation with the investigations and oversight by Congress in this, we have provided an extraordinary amount of information -- thousands and thousands of documents. We have provided testimony by senior officials repeatedly in hearings and in person, and other forms of testimony. We have provided to the relevant committees as well as leadership and staff the very emails that we’re talking about. And was a concession, a unique concession to a longstanding position held by administrations of both parties going back years that internal deliberations are not something that we divulge or make public. I can also tell you that we are always looking at ways to how we can provide more information about this specific issue. And I don’t have any announcements for you now, but we’re looking at ways that we can make more information available. Q But you said that this process has been contaminated maliciously. So why don’t you let the public look at what you’re describing? MR. CARNEY: Major, I commented on a news report that reflected that an email that had been reported on was actually not accurately reported on. I have said more broadly that this is political. Republicans are fundraising off of it. Outside conservative groups are doing ads on it. You have reports that the -- by your colleagues -- that the Speaker of the House is obsessed with it and yet, when he had the opportunity to look at the emails, he didn’t even go. We know that the emails in question were provided to the relevant members of Congress of both parties, including the leadership. And at that time, even though they supposedly knew everything that was in them, they did not raise objections about them. And their concern about the emails with regards to the confirmation process for John Brennan were met and the confirmation moved forward. So it is absolutely political. And we have in the course of this been focused on what isn’t political and what is essential, which is the fact that four Americans were killed and we need to find those who are responsible and bring them to justice. Secondly, we need to take action to ensure that the inadequate security that clearly existed at the time, because we could not protect those four Americans, be looked at and addressed so that it doesn't happen again. And that is reflected in the ARB led by Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering and their unsparing report, and in the fact that the State Department adopted every one of their recommendations. Q Might you release the emails? MR. CARNEY: Again, we’re looking at, as we have throughout this process, ways to provide as much information as possible. There is the tradition, if you will, or the concern that dates back through administrations of both parties involving internal communications and deliberations, but we are again, as we have throughout, working to provide more information. Wendell. Q Is the President as concerned, as troubled by the subpoena of AP phone records as he is the IRS’s actions? MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is that when there are criminal investigations undertaken by the Department of Justice, we do not have insight into or knowledge about them -- and that is the way it should be -- methods or other information that should not be and is not shared. What I also can tell you is that the Attorney General has said that he has confidence that the procedures the Justice Department is supposed to follow in this case, in these kinds of circumstances, were followed. But I am simply reflecting what the Attorney General said because I don't have independent information, and we do not have independent information about an ongoing criminal investigation, an investigation which, as the Attorney General said again, involves an egregious leak of classified information. And obviously an investigation like that is fairly broad in terms of its scope, and that's why it’s so essential that White Houses do not engage with Departments of Justice on matters like these. There is some history to that in previous administrations, and it is not a pretty history. So we maintain that firewall. Broadly speaking, I can tell you that the President is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be free in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and to facilitate a free flow information. He also has to, as Commander-in-Chief and as a citizen, be mindful of the necessity of protecting our national security information, classified information. And that is a balance that he believes we can find and must find. Part of finding that balance -- again, not specific to this case -- but part of finding that balance he has long believed is enacting the kind of media shield law that he has supported since he was a senator and which he looks forward to being reintroduced in the Senate in the coming days and weeks. Q So he believes there might have been justification for the government to subpoena these phone records? MR. CARNEY: Well, you’re putting words into my mouth. What I did was cite the Attorney General. We do not have independent insight into -- or eyes onto the methods or information involved in a criminal investigation. Q The President sat next to the Attorney General at the Police Officers Memorial. Can we assume they did not discuss this? MR. CARNEY: I can assume that, but I have not had a conversation with the President about it. You can be sure that the firewall that we maintain is always maintained. Q Walk me through why it’s necessary to maintain that firewall. MR. CARNEY: Seriously? So it is entirely appropriate that criminal investigations conducted by the Department of Justice be independent of the White House, of any White House. And in a case like this when, according again to the Attorney General, that this is an investigation that has to do with an egregious leak of classified information, it would be doubly inappropriate for other components of the administration to cross that line and to communicate with the Justice Department about that ongoing investigation. So we do not. Q It’s being cited as a failure of leadership that on the AP subpoenas, the IRS actions, the Fast and Furious gun-walking investigation, you or the President said that you learned of it from media reports. MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I would be interested to see what the reporting would be if it were otherwise, if it were to found out that there were -- that there was engagement by the White House in criminal investigations conducted by the Department of Justice. Again, I think it’s important and instructive to know the history here of previous administrations and to know why it is so important that that firewall be maintained. It’s not always convenient, but it is important. It is important to the successful carrying out of investigations and to the implementation of our justice system. Peter. Q Given the fact that you said that the IG report the President has acknowledged concern that it sort of undermines Americans’ view of the IRS, Senator Weicker today said that the IRS controversy is going to make it significantly more difficult for this administration working with Congress to pass any big budget deal if it includes new taxes. Is that a concern? MR. CARNEY: The President believes, as a majority of Americans believe, as every bipartisan panel that has looked at this believes, and as most economists believe, that the proper way to further reduce our deficit so that it does not infringe on economic growth, so that it does not cause job loss, but rather it causes growth and job creation is to do it in a way that is balanced, that includes revenue from tax reform as the President has proposed. That is the right way to do this. That's the way the American people believe is right. And I would simply point you to what I said at the top. We have seen -- and it’s important to note this because we have spent a great deal of time, appropriately, talking about deficit reduction here at the White House and on Capitol Hill and around Washington and different ways of achieving it, and the President committed that he would reduce the deficit by half when he took office. And there was a lot of skepticism about that. The CBO has now put out a report making clear that we have reduced the deficit by half, and more work needs to be done. And the reason why we’ve been able to reduce the deficit by half, the reduction that we saw from the baseline estimates from February to May, is because of increased revenues. Why do you have increased revenues? One, because of the President’s approach to deficit reduction, as you know through the fiscal cliff deal that was finally negotiated at the end of the year and on the 1st of this year; and because we have a growing economy, and a growing economy is essential -- is an essential component of deficit reduction. And if you take the approach that has been supported by others of answering the call for deficit reduction by asking seniors and the middle class to foot the bill while giving tax cuts to the wealthy, the success rate of that proposal is abysmal. I mean, we can just look. I wish I had the chart here. When President Bush took office in 1993 -- or rather in 2001, he inherited a budget surplus. By the time he left office, he bequeathed upon his successor record deficits. In those eight years, policies were implemented that mirror the policies supported by Republicans when it comes to budgets and deficits today. They did not work. The middle class stagnated even during periods of growth. Wages were flat. And in the end, we saw the worst financial crisis that we’ve seen in our lifetimes and a near depression. Since President Obama has come into office, he took immediate, urgent measure, emergency measures to stop the bleeding and to prevent a depression. And since that time, we have seen steady, substantial deficit reduction. We have seen steady economic growth. And we have seen steady job creation. That’s the recipe that the American people expect and want from Washington. Q But it doesn’t seem unreasonable for Americans right now, given what we’ve learned about the IRS, may have a lack of confidence in the tax-collecting agency. MR. CARNEY: Well, the President believes, as I just made clear, that it is imperative that action be taken so that Americans understand and believe that the IRS enforces our tax laws in a neutral and fair way to all Americans. And that’s why he expects action in response to the report, and it’s why he feels so passionately, as you’ve seen reflected in his comments on it. Q The White House, in an effort to try to reestablish confidence, some have said has been ineffective in terms of its crisis management. The gentleman who used to stand at that podium before you, Robert Gibbs, said just yesterday in reference to the President’s remarks at the news conference with David Cameron on Monday, that if the President had spoken less about losing patience for this, “which is what I do with my 9-year-old, and used [far] more vivid language,” this circumstance wouldn’t play out the way that it had. Does the White House feel confident that its handling of this crisis has been sufficient in terms of placating Americans’ concerns about their trust in government? MR. CARNEY: I think the President made clear, based on news reports, his feelings about those reports and what he would expect if they turned out to be true. It is entirely appropriate for a President or other leaders in an administration not to take action based on media reports, but to wait for the actual Inspector General review to see what happened before moving forward, and that’s what the President did. I think it would be -- Q Is that bad advice that Robert Gibbs was suggesting to this President? MR. CARNEY: Look, I think the President is impatient with people who do not hold themselves to the standards that he believes employees of the federal government ought to hold themselves to -- because the American public deserve that and he expects it. He also believes that it is important for him to wait for the facts before he acts, and that is what he done here. Peter. Q Thank you, Jay. We’ve seen on gun control -- we saw the President act and push a gun control bill after the events at Sandy Hook. We’re seeing with respect to the shield law the President pushing the shield law after reports after the seizure of AP phone records. Why doesn’t the President proactively come out with his agenda and push it regardless of these -- what’s happening outside? Why doesn’t he just come forward with his own agenda and -- MR. CARNEY: I mean, Peter, I’d say that's a question that I wish I could answer in full because I could give you the full list of the President’s agenda, both when he took office in 2009 and when he was inaugurated for a second time earlier this year. And the items are filled -- the list is filled with items that he proactively initiated, not least the Recovery Act; not least the Affordable Care Act -- Obamacare; not least the actions that resulted in the deal at the end of the year just now that contributed to the reestimate of our deficits by the CBO that made, for the first time in 20 years, our tax code more fair. And there are just numerous instances of this. I think that it is fair to say, and as others have said, that the accomplishments of the first term are substantial legislatively and are substantial in ways that do not involve legislation, including the fulfillment of the President’s commitment to end the war in Iraq, the fulfillment of the President’s commitment to refocus our attention in the war against terrorists and al Qaeda on Afghanistan and the al Qaeda central in the Af-Pak region that led to the successful removal of Osama bin Laden from the battlefield. And if it is also true that the President pushes legislation that he believes is essential, that -- at least in the case of Newtown -- is a response to something horrific, like Newtown, that is wholly appropriate. And what we have seen, even though a minority in the Senate rejected the will of 90 percent of the American people, we have seen a substantial change in the views of the American people on common-sense measures to reduce gun violence. We have seen and heard the voices of the American people who were disappointed in the Senate expressed in the aftermath of that. And the President believes, as he has said to you, that this fight is not over, that this will be done. When it comes to enacting legislation, responsible legislation, to expand our background law system so that it works and it’s not filled with loopholes, that's going to happen. The President believes it’s going to happen not because he wants it or says it’s so, but because the American people have been so clear that they want it and they will hold their elected leaders responsible if they block it. Roger Runningen, then Mark Landler. Q Thank you. Mr. Erdogan of Turkey is here tomorrow for talks with the President about Syria and a host of other items. Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman and its top Republican are introducing legislation to authorize arms to the Syrian rebels. How does the White House respond to that? MR. CARNEY: I don't have a comment specifically on legislation that, if you are correct, is being submitted. What I can tell you is that the President and his team are constantly evaluating the options available in terms of assisting the Syrian people and assisting the Syrian opposition. We have significantly increased our assistance in both cases: humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people -- we are by far the largest donor of that assistance; and direct assistance to the Syrian opposition, including assistance to the Supreme Military Council. It is our position as of now that our assistance to the Syrian opposition is nonlethal in nature, although it has changed in kind within the rubric of nonlethal. But we are constantly evaluating what our options are. You heard the President talk about this and the need to make sure that the actions we take help bring about the goal that we seek, which is a Syria that is rid of Bashar al-Assad; a Syria that has the opportunity to flourish, to be more democratic and more prosperous; to have a government that reflects the will of the people and respects the rights of all the Syrian people. And those are substantial goals, and we need to make sure that the actions we take contribute to the achievement of those goals on behalf of U.S. national interests, as well as, importantly, the Syrian people. Q Mr. Erdogan told NBC on May 9th that, “We want the United States to take more responsibility, further steps inside, in Syria, to end the fighting.” It sort of sounds like he may not get anything like that. MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't know what you mean by the last part of your question. I can tell you that the President will have discussions with the Prime Minister about a range of issues. And I'm sure that Syria will be very high on the agenda, including ways that we can, working together and with our partners, bring about the transition that is so essential in Syria, including the efforts that are underway to revitalize the Geneva Framework for a political transition -- we've been working with the Russians on that matter as well as others -- and including the ways that we are working to provide assistance to the opposition and to the Syrian people. Mark, and then Ari. Two Marks -- I did say Landler first. So I'll do Mark, Ari, Mark. Q Thanks, Jay. The New York Times is reporting this morning, citing a senior Israeli official as warning President Assad of two things: Number one, that Israel will continue interdicting the flow of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah, something it did two weeks ago with a series of military strikes. And secondly, that if the Assad regime retaliates against this, it can expect a much broader Israeli response, one that the official described as putting Assad at risk of forfeiting his regime. Is the White House concerned that this conflict in Syria has the potential, the danger, of spilling across its borders and becoming a wider conflict? MR. CARNEY: In answer to your question at the end -- yes, we have always been concerned that the conflict in Syria could expand beyond its borders. But as a general principle, that is why we have been so insistent that we need to bring about a political transition there and that we need the support of a range of partners in that effort. In terms of reported Israeli actions or contemplated Israeli actions, I would have to refer you to the Israelis. What I have said in response to the story that you mentioned -- the previous story -- is that, broadly speaking, we have long acknowledged and recognized that it is part of Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself and that its concern about the transfer of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah is legitimate. And we understand that concern and why Israel holds it, and why they take action to address it. Again, that’s not in response to any specific reported action but simply our position on the overall matter. Q Can I ask one follow-up on Benghazi? Further on this discussion of the talking points and the interagency process, I’m just wondering, is the White House confident or does the White House have confidence in the performance of the State Department Spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, who is the author of some of the emails in question? And would the President be comfortable promoting her or forwarding her for a Senate-confirmed position in the future? MR. CARNEY: Well, the answer is yes, and the other is a hypothetical. But the answer is yes, we have confidence in her. And, again, when it comes to the so-called talking points, the fundamental issue here was why did Ambassador Rice go out on the Sunday shows and assert that it was the view of the administration and, in this case, the intelligence community, that there had been a protest and that that is what led to -- in response to the anti-Muslim video --- and that is what led to, ultimately, to the violence and the assault against the facility there. That assessment turned out to be wrong. But that assessment was made, as is reflected in all the reporting here, by the intelligence community after a lot of internal deliberations about what different information there was and what could and should be said publicly. And there was a process in which the CIA issued talking points that represented their view on what happened and took into concern -- took into account the concerns of others about what information was appropriate to provide and what wasn’t. And that document moved forward. What is ironic about the churn that has been caused by this is that, again, the accusation was always that we had somehow, the White House or others, had altered the intelligence community’s assessment. That is false, has always been false. Secondly, the idea that we tried to perpetuate a view of what had happened that was inconsistent with the new information that was provided. But that is belied by the facts -- by the fact that the President called it an act of terror the day after; by the fact that the NCTC Director in congressional testimony just a few days after Ambassador Rice was on the Sunday shows, said our information now is that this was a terrorist attack. And as more information became available, we made it available. And meanwhile, actions were taken on the important matters, which was launching an investigation into who did this so that they can be brought to justice, and launching a process by which an assessment could be made of what went wrong, what failures there were that allowed for four Americans to be killed, and implementing recommendations to prevent them from happening in the future. And that moved forward at the President’s direction, at the Secretary of State’s direction. Ari. Q Thanks, Jay. The President has spent so much time and effort in the last four years trying to persuade Americans that they should trust their government. He says government is not some hostile outside force; government is us. He says it again and again. Do the actions of the IRS and the Justice Department make it more difficult for him to persuade Americans that the government deserves their trust? MR. CARNEY: Well, I can address the IRS. The fact of the matter is that the conduct described in the Inspector General’s report is wholly inappropriate, as far as the President is concerned. It is wrong and it should not have happened, and action needs to be taken so that it doesn’t happen again, and those who are responsible for the failures need to be held accountable. And it is precisely because -- both broadly, but with specific regard to this agency -- that the American people believe and can feel assured that the IRS operates in a neutral and fair way in the application of our tax laws to everybody. And that is why he has responded the way that he has. Q But given the range of government, at least questionable if not bad behavior that we’re looking at -- and I know you don’t want to talk about the DOJ but it’s on the front page every day -- how does the President say with a straight face, you, Americans, should trust your government, we’re acting in your best interests? MR. CARNEY: Well, here’s what the President can say and what any responsible chief executive can say in a situation like this -- a chief executive who oversees a substantial organization, and I think it’s fair to say that the federal government is substantial. If inappropriate action, illegal action, wrong action is discovered, it needs to be corrected and people need to be held accountable. And that is what this President has said, and that is what he will instruct others to make sure happens. And that reflects his view that everyone who works for the United States government needs to hold himself or herself to the highest standards, the standards expected by the American people. And the American people justifiably hold everyone -- from the President on down -- to those standards. And when those standards are not met, and when there is inappropriate conduct, regardless of the motivation, when there are failures the likes of which we see documented in the Inspector General’s report, action has to be taken. There has to be impatience for that, and the President has that impatience for that kind of action. So he wants and instructs everyone who works in the government -- whether they work for him or are civil servants -- to hold themselves to that standard. And when he finds out that there have been failures, he acts on it. Mark and then Christi. Mr. Knoller. Q Jay, you said earlier that most officials are not distracted from their jobs in pursuing the President’s agenda. But what about you? Much has been said and written about the burden that you’ve faced in the last few days with the Benghazi, IRS, and AP stories. Have you felt an undue burden? Have you dreaded this week’s briefings more than any other? MR. CARNEY: You know it’s a personal question, but a great question. Q Do you appreciate it? (Laughter.) MR. CARNEY: You beat me to my punch line. (Laughter.) In this case, I actually do. It is a privilege every day to stand here, and I wear the so-called burden lightly because I believe in what we’re doing and I believe in what we’re doing in this room. I think, because I did it myself, that it is entirely appropriate for the reporters who cover this building to ask hard questions, even when they're questions that are hard to answer, or when I have to say, because it’s true, that I don't have the answer, or that it would be inappropriate for me to have an answer. And I know that that is unsatisfying, but it has to be the case. And I think that it may sound odd, but I enjoy coming out here when it is challenging because I think that this is a portion of our democracy at work. And to be a part of that is a rare and unique privilege. And I think -- I hope everyone here feels that. I know I felt it when I was sitting in the chair that you're occupying, and I know I’ll feel it for the rest of my life. Christi. Q I just want to make sure I understand your response to Wendell about the resurrection of the reporter shield bill. It’s not -- it would be wrong to read that, you’re saying, as a sign that the President is not happy that the DOJ went after the AP? MR. CARNEY: It would be because we simply -- we don't have information about, nor should we, beyond the press reports, about the specific investigation or the methods that are being employed. I can point you to what the Attorney General said about his confidence that procedures in place were appropriately followed. But beyond that, I simply don't have and the President doesn't have further knowledge about or insight into that specific investigation. It is certainly the case that, broadly speaking -- and these are issues that are being raised now -- that he believes we need to have the kinds of protections for the media that a media shield law would provide. And he has long felt that -- because the balance that I speak of that he believes is necessary and that he seeks is a careful balance that begins with the proposition that we need to allow reporters the freedom to pursue investigative journalism, which is an essential part of our democracy, an essential part of what should have and needs to happen in Washington. And then, starting from that essential proposition, we need to then understand and take account of the really vital concerns that are raised by the leaking of classified information. And without going into -- because I don't know the details, but I can tell you what the Attorney General said -- without going into the specifics of that case, he said it was a particularly egregious leak of information. And broadly speaking, that's a serious matter. And I know that it’s -- when you’re a reporter, as I was, that you view this through a particular lens, and that's appropriate. But it is also important to remember, and I think all reporters or most reporters do, that there are real consequences to the leakage of classified information or can be, and there can be, in fact, lives endangered by it. And we just -- the President believes we have to find that balance. But there is the predisposition towards the First Amendment and towards the ability of the press to operate freely. Q So let me ask you this: Did the White House go to Senator Schumer and ask him to do it? MR. CARNEY: We have been in contact with Senator Schumer. Q Was it at the White House initiative? MR. CARNEY: Well, this is Senator Schumer’s bill, let’s be clear. We are encouraged by his desire to resubmit it, and it reflects the principles the President has and holds. But we certainly have been in conversation with him. Q Is there ever any setting in which the President and the Attorney General sit down as two lawyers who understand policy and have a vested interest in the way this administration carries out its -- crafts and carries out policy and discuss things like this? MR. CARNEY: Well, I would, of course, not participate in -- I don't participate in all his conversations. He obviously has known the Attorney General for some time. But the President believes very strongly in the need for that independence and in the need for the firewall to exist. And I think for the reasons that I’ve said, it would be the expectation of reporters who cover this, as well as others who hold any administration’s feet to the fire on matters like this, that that firewall be maintained, because it would be inappropriate for a White House to engage with the Justice Department in a criminal investigation of this kind in particular. Q Right, but I’m not talking about a criminal investigation. I’m talking about a policy matter. MR. CARNEY: But you’re asking me about potential conversations that -- well, about policy matters, sure. Q But do you? MR. CARNEY: Sure, in fact, I can point you to -- I mean, I don't have a specific conversation. But, sure, the President engages in policy discussions with all of his Cabinet members. And, in fact, going back to the media shield law, there was a letter I believe in late 2009 that was signed by the Attorney General and the Director -- the DNI in support of the media shield law. And that reflected the President’s position, so I’m sure there was a discussion about that policy. But what there is not a discussion of is ongoing criminal investigations. I’ll take one more. April. Q Jay, on immigration. The President and this White House have pushed for the diversity lottery to be placed in the Senate and the House bills. Apparently, by a voice vote last night -- it looks like you’re prepared for it. MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m just turning to see if there’s anything in here on it -- I know the question, though. Go ahead. I think I do. Q Okay. By voice vote, the Senate adopted the diversity lottery. What is the President saying about that? And will that be part of the discussion tonight or this afternoon with John McCain? MR. CARNEY: Well, we expect that immigration reform will be one of the topics of discussion this afternoon between Senator McCain and the President. I'm not sure whether this specific amendment will be discussed. I think the progress being made in general in the Senate will be discussed and the road forward will be discussed. As you know, the President feels encouraged by that progress. And he is admiring of the bipartisan effort that has made it this far, of which Senator McCain is such a key component. But there will be other matters discussed. On that particular provision, the President supports it. And he looks forward to a bill emerging from this process that reflects his principles. He acknowledged from the beginning -- and has periodically since the beginning -- that he will not get everything he wants in it, that it will not be word for word the way he might have written the bill. But it will, he expects, reflect the principles that he laid out that have been online now for so long. And it will, he hopes, earn the kind of robust bipartisan support that will I think represent to America the broad consensus that has developed around this issue and that contains within it the real possibility that this significant piece of business can be achieved with all of its benefits for the middle class and for the economy, for the 11 million people living in the shadows, and for our businesses. But there is a lot of work to be done. We're mid-stream in the process -- to go back to the general question of what we're doing around here, the issues we're focused on, this is an issue that we're focused on and a lot of people are working on. And we're still in markup in the Senate, and there's a lot of road to travel. But there has been substantial progress and we are heartened by that. Q Are you going to finish with the House? Are you going to push this effort in the House since it's not even included? MR. CARNEY: Well, we're working with both houses of Congress, both parties in both houses on this issue. We have long noted that the Gang of Eight -- so-called Gang of Eight in the Senate has taken the lead on this and has moved forward in a bipartisan way. And we have been very supportive of that. But we are working with both houses. You guys clearly have breaking news that I don't have. Q The acting head of the IRS has told congressional officials, we've learned, that the IRS problem stems from two "rogue employees" in their office in Cincinnati. Is the White House aware of this? Was the President aware of this? MR. CARNEY: I'm not. I’m hearing about that for the first time. I'm aware of what's in the Inspector General's report. Q And mine is actually different. Franklin Graham has sent a letter to the President saying that he believes two of his organizations have been audited for political reasons. And in this letter to the President he said, “Will you take immediate action to reassure Americans we are not in a new chapter of America's history -- repressive government rule?” What's the response to Franklin Graham? MR. CARNEY: Well, I can tell you that the President will reassure Americans that he will insist that every step be taken necessary to hold people accountable for the failures that are documented in the Inspector General's report, A. And, B, that actions be taken so that the inappropriate conduct not occur again, that the kind of criteria that were used never be used again, because it's entirely inappropriate, in the President's view, because it is so essential for the American people to believe that the IRS is enacting our tax laws in a way that is fair and impartial and neutral. Thanks very much, everybody. END 2:30 P.M. EDT
Vice President Biden met with Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic this afternoon in Washington. The Vice President reiterated the United States’ commitment to a strong and growing bilateral partnership with Serbia. The Vice President congratulated Prime Minister Dacic on reaching an initial agreement in the EU-facilitated Dialogue to normalize Serbia’s relationship with Kosovo. This agreement holds the promise of advancing the European aspirations of both countries and securing a peaceful and prosperous future for their citizens. Prime Minister Dacic and his government showed leadership and conviction in taking this important step. The Vice President underscored the importance of Serbia and Kosovo moving forward expeditiously to meet their Dialogue commitments and to implement the agreement in full. The Vice President encourages both Serbia and Kosovo to take this historic opportunity to move their countries forward.
Today, the President and Vice President released their 2012 financial disclosure reports.
The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 requires high-level federal officials to publicly disclose their personal financial interests. The public filing system serves to prevent financial conflicts of interest by providing for a systematic review of the finances of government officials. Those finances are set forth in annual disclosures which are reviewed and certified by ethics officials. Neither the President nor the Vice President have any conflicts of interest, and their reports have been reviewed and certified by the independent Office of Government Ethics. We are continuing this Administration's practice of posting these forms online here in the interests of transparency:
White House staff are also completing their forms and we anticipate they will be available here next month, also in electronic form.
For more information
President Barack Obama bows his head after placing a flower in a wreath during the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. May 15, 2013. Chuck Canterbury, National President, Fraternal Order of Police and Linda Hennie, President, FOP Auxiliary stand with the President. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Today, President Obama spoke at the National Peace Officers Memorial Service, an annual ceremony honoring law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty in the previous year.
The President said that the 143 officers honored today “exemplified the very idea of citizenship -- that with our God-given rights come responsibilities and obligations to ourselves and to others.”
They embodied that idea. That’s the way they died. That’s how we must remember them. And that’s how we must live.
We can never repay our debt to these officers and their families, but we must do what we can, with all that we have, to live our lives in a way that pays tribute to their memory.
|Daily Press Briefing: May 14, 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 14, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2013/05/209377.htm
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|Daily Press Briefing: May 13, 2013
U.S. Department of State Spokesperson Jen Psaki leads the Daily Press Briefing at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. on May 13, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2013/05/209338.htm.
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|Time: 01:07:59||More in News & Politics|
President Obama will welcome His Excellency President Thein Sein to the White House on Monday, May 20, 2013. Since President Obama’s historic trip to Rangoon last November, the United States has continued to advocate for continued progress on reform by President Thein Sein’s government, in close cooperation with Aung San Suu Kyi, civil society leaders, and the international community. The President looks forward to discussing with President Thein Sein the many remaining challenges to efforts to develop democracy, address communal and ethnic tensions, and bring economic opportunity to the people of his country, and to exploring how the United States can help.
President Thein Sein’s visit underscores President Obama’s commitment to supporting and assisting those governments that make the important decision to embrace reform, and highlights the dedication of the United States to helping the Burmese people realize the full potential of their extraordinary country.
11:20 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you, Chuck, for that introduction and more importantly for your leadership as National President of the Fraternal Order of Police. I want to recognize the entire Order and all its leaders, including Jim Pasco, for everything that you do on behalf of the fine officers who walk the beat, or answer the call, and do the difficult work of keeping our communities safe all across the country.
I want to also acknowledge FOP Auxiliary President Linda Hennie for the good work that she and all her members do to support the families of police officers. We are very grateful to you, to Speaker Boehner, Leader Pelosi, members of Congress, members of my administration who are here, to all the law enforcement officials who are and, most of all, to the survivor families.
Scripture tells us, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself.” The brave officers we gather to remember today devoted themselves so fully to others -- to serve and to protect others -- that in the process they were willing to give their lives.
And so, today, let us not remember them just for how they died, but also for how they lived.
Officer Bruce St. Laurent of the Jupiter, Florida Police Department was, according to a friend, “just what a cop should be: tough, compassionate, caring, and brave.” But to his community, he was more than a cop. He was a cancer survivor. He was a guest teacher at Jupiter High School who used the laws of traffic to help kids learn physics. He was an amateur snake charmer of sorts, eagerly taking panicked calls about snakes on the loose. And at Christmas time, he loved being Santa Claus for the kids in the local Head Start program.
I have the privilege of working with some of the nation’s finest law enforcement officers and professionals every day. And I’m perpetually mindful of the sacrifices they make for me and for my family, and for other leaders and visiting dignitaries, but never more so than when I was told that Officer St. Laurent was struck and killed by another vehicle while driving his motorcycle as part of my motorcade.
Bruce was a loving husband to Brenda, a doting father to Larry, and Albert, and Lenny, and Chartelle. And he will be missed so deeply by his family at home and by his family in the force. And the police officers who came from all over the country to attend Bruce’s funeral, some bringing their motorcycles as far away as California, they’re a testimony to how much he’ll be missed.
Like Bruce, Deputy Sheriff Barbara Ann Pill of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida was a force for good in her community -- remembered as a “behind-the-scenes hero” by those who knew her. Because for Barbara, helping others was never a question. Before joining the force, she counseled abused children and helped families struggling with domestic abuse. That passion served her and led her to a career in law enforcement, and inspired her two sons to follow. So when Barbara was shot while investigating a suspicious vehicle last spring, not only did her husband, Steve, lose his partner of more than 30 years, the town of Melbourne, and the nation itself, lost one of its most dedicated citizens.
All of you in law enforcement, you devote your lives to serving and protecting your communities. Many of you have done it for your country as well. After serving two tours in Iraq as a Marine, Bradley Michael Fox retired with honor and followed his dream to becoming a police officer. He had been with the Plymouth Township Police Department in Pennsylvania for five years when he was shot and killed pursuing a suspect last September. It was the day before his 35th birthday, and six months before the birth of his son.
Nothing will replace the enthusiasm that he brought to his job, or the tremendous pride he had in his family. But today, Brad’s wife, Lynsay, and daughter, Kadence, and baby, Brad Jr., have a living reminder of their fallen hero -- that's Brad’s K9 partner, a trusty shepherd named Nick, who Lynsay adopted into the family when he retired from the force last fall.
Deputy Sheriff Scott Ward also defined service. He was a former officer in the Air Force, a deputy in the Baldwin County, Alabama, Sheriff’s Office for 15 years, and finished a tour in Afghanistan last year as a reservist in the Coast Guard.
Last November, Deputy Sheriff Ward was shot and killed in the line of duty while trying to settle a domestic dispute. And he died as he lived -- serving his community and his country. And the fact that his funeral procession stretched for miles demonstrated the thanks of a grateful nation to Scott’s wife, Andrea, and his family.
At Scott’s funeral, Baldwin Country Sheriff Huey Mack said, “Tomorrow we will continue to grieve Scott, but we will have to move on. That’s what Scott would want us to do because our mission does not stop.”
That message I think rings true in every police department across the country. As difficult as times may be, as tough as the losses may be, your mission does not stop. You never let down your guard. And those of us who you protect should never let slide our gratitude either. We should not pause and remember to thank first responders and police officers only in the wake of tragedy. We should do it every day. And those of us who have the privilege to lead should all strive to support you better -- whether it’s making sure police departments and first responders have the resources they need to do their jobs, or the reforms that are required to protect more of our officers and their families from the senseless epidemics of violence that all too often wrack our cities and haunt our neighborhoods.
And Bobby Kennedy once said that the fight against crime “is a fight to preserve that quality of community which is at the root of our greatness.”
The 143 fallen officers we honor today put themselves on the front lines of that fight, to preserve that quality of community, and to protect the roots of our greatness. They exemplified the very idea of citizenship -- that with our God-given rights come responsibilities and obligations to ourselves and to others. They embodied that idea. That’s the way they died. That’s how we must remember them. And that’s how we must live.
We can never repay our debt to these officers and their families, but we must do what we can, with all that we have, to live our lives in a way that pays tribute to their memory. That begins, but does not end, by gathering here -- with heavy hearts, to carve their names in stone, so that all will know them, and that their legacy will endure. We are grateful to them and we are grateful to you.
May God bless the memory of those we lost, and may God continue to bless the United States of America. (Applause.)
11:29 A.M. EDT
On Friday, May 17th, at 10:00 AM MT/ 12:00 PM ET, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver the commencement address at Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Dr. Biden will address the 33rd graduating class of Navajo Technical College (NTC), one of two tribal colleges serving the Navajo Nation. NTC was recently recognized for the second consecutive year by the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program as being one of the top 120 community colleges in the United States, in part because of its graduation rate near 80 percent.
NTC offers 20 certificate programs, 15 associate degrees, and six baccalaureate degrees to a student population of nearly 1,800 students. Many of the programs at NTC are designed to help create new jobs and economic opportunities on or near the Navajo Nation, while equipping their students with the skills they need to succeed in those jobs. Through this approach, NTC has developed partnerships and collaborations with other universities, including Arizona State University, the private sector, and federal agencies.
The commencement, including Dr. Biden’s remarks, will be live streamed at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/navajo-tech-crownpoint-nm.
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog’s report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I’ve directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again. But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong. Public service is a solemn privilege. I expect everyone who serves in the federal government to hold themselves to the highest ethical and moral standards. So do the American people. And as President, I intend to make sure our public servants live up to those standards every day.
I have now had the opportunity to review the Treasury Department watchdog’s report on its investigation of IRS personnel who improperly targeted conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. And the report’s findings are intolerable and inexcusable. The federal government must conduct itself in a way that’s worthy of the public’s trust, and that’s especially true for the IRS. The IRS must apply the law in a fair and impartial way, and its employees must act with utmost integrity. This report shows that some of its employees failed that test.
I’ve directed Secretary Lew to hold those responsible for these failures accountable, and to make sure that each of the Inspector General’s recommendations are implemented quickly, so that such conduct never happens again. But regardless of how this conduct was allowed to take place, the bottom line is, it was wrong. Public service is a solemn privilege. I expect everyone who serves in the federal government to hold themselves to the highest ethical and moral standards. So do the American people. And as President, I intend to make sure our public servants live up to those standards every day.
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:09 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. I appreciate your attendance. And I have no announcements to make at the top, so I'll go straight to the Associated Press.
Q Thanks, Jay. For fear of stating the obvious, the White House right now is confronting a confluence of issues -- Benghazi talking points, IRS reviews of political groups, Justice Department review of journalists’ phone records. And in every instance, either the President or you have placed the burden of responsibility someplace else. On the Benghazi talking points, it’s been political motivations on the Hill. On the IRS, it’s been the bureaucrats at the IRS. And on the Justice Department issue, yesterday in your statement you said those matters are handled independently by the Justice Department. But it is the President’s administration, so I wonder, doesn’t responsibility for setting tone and setting direction ultimately rest with the President on these matters?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the responsibility to set tone and to focus on the priorities of the American people is absolutely the responsibility of the President. And you see and hear him do that every day as he fulfills his duties as President.
I think you have to separate these issues, and I think if you look at the answers the President gave yesterday in response to questions, on one hand, about the clear political circus that Benghazi has become and his response to questions about the reports of activity by the IRS, I think you see something different. He made clear that if the reports about the activity of IRS personnel proved to be true, he would find them outrageous, and he would expect appropriate action be taken and that people be held responsible. He has no tolerance for targeting of specific groups, conservative groups, if the reporting is true on this, and he would expect action to be taken.
But this is a matter, when it comes to the IRS, that is under review by the independent Inspector General. We have not seen that report. It is our understanding that its release is fairly imminent, and once we have that report we'll be able to assess next steps. So at this point, we have to wait for the action of an independent investigator, if you will, the Inspector General, before we can jump to conclusions about what happened, whether there was a deliberate targeting of groups inappropriately, and if that's the case, what action should be taken. But you can be sure, and I would point you to the President’s response yesterday, what his feelings are about this kind of action if it, in fact, took place.
On the issue of what is a Department of Justice investigation, as I understand it, the President is a strong defender of the First Amendment and a firm believer in the need for the press to be unfettered in its ability to conduct investigative reporting and facilitate a free flow of information. He also, of course, recognizes the need for the Justice Department to investigate alleged criminal activity without undue influence.
And as I said yesterday in my statement, other than press reports we have no knowledge of any attempt by the Justice Department to seek phone records of the Associated Press. We are not involved at the White House in any decisions made in connection with ongoing criminal investigations, as those matters are handled, appropriately, by the Justice Department independently.
And I understand there are a lot of questions about the reports about DOJ’s actions, and from my background, I understand them well. But in this situation where the department appears to be conducting a criminal investigation, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to have answers to those questions. I don’t have them. And I have to refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q If I could then go back to the IRS issue, the President did use the word “if” these activities had taken place, but there has been an acknowledgment on the part of the IRS leadership that these things did indeed occur, so I wondered why the President used that phrasing in claiming that it was an outrageous --
MR. CARNEY: Well, those from the IRS who have spoken about this obviously have much greater insight into what took place than we do. We have to -- we have not seen the report. We have not independently collected information about what transpired. We need the independent Inspector General’s report to be released before we can make judgments.
One person’s view of what actions were taken or what that individual did is not enough for us to say something concretely happened that was inappropriate. I think if you look at some of what’s been said -- that the actions were inadvertent or not, or constituted something that was specific and inappropriate or not -- and I think that what we have to do, responsibly, is wait for the independent Inspector General’s report to be released before we assess next steps.
But again, if you look at what the President said yesterday, he was very clear that if there was deliberate, specific targeting of groups that would be outrageous and would require, in his view, action be taken.
Q And that action -- would there be something that the White House could do unilaterally?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that we have to wait and see what next steps are, because obviously there is a significant amount of independence of the IRS, obviously, as well as the IG, and we have to wait for what the IG assesses before we can decide what next steps might appropriately be taken.
Q Jay, it’s now clear that senior tax officials knew about this extra scrutiny of conservative groups since 2011, which means also during the election and that this was withheld until after the election. Should the White House have been informed earlier?
MR. CARNEY: My understanding is that when there is a review, as there was and is, by an Inspector General, that when the end of that process is nearing and a report is about to be released, a notification is appropriate and routine. And that is what happened, and that happened several weeks ago. Prior to that, there was no knowledge here at the White House.
Now, before I make judgments about or anyone else here makes judgments about whether the White House should have known more or others in the administration should have known more, we have to find out what exactly happened. And that’s why it's important for us to wait for the release of the Inspector General's report, which will hopefully be fairly imminent.
Q Based on the reporting, do you have any concerns that this was withheld when it could have been a big story during an election year?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we have serious concerns about what's been reported. I think you saw that reflected in what the President said. And again, it's been reported, and we have to make sure that the independent review of this by an Inspector General is revealed, and we can assess that and assess what actually happened, what motivations there were behind whatever actions were taken, and then decide what action is appropriate and who should take it.
Q When did the President find out about the Department of Justice's subpoenas for the Associated Press?
MR. CARNEY: Yesterday. Let me just be clear. We don’t have any independent knowledge of that. He found out about the news reports yesterday on the road.
Q What was his reaction to that? Does he believe that this was an overreach?
MR. CARNEY: All I can tell you is that I cannot and he cannot comment specifically on an ongoing criminal investigation or actions that investigators at the Department of Justice may or may not have taken. It would be wholly inappropriate. And if we did comment on it, or if we did have insight into it, you would appropriately ask why and is that correct procedure, because it would not be.
So I can't comment on the specifics of that. But I can tell you that the President feels strongly that we need the press to be able to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism. And you saw when he was a senator, the President co-sponsored legislation that would have provided further protections for journalists in this regard. And he is also mindful of the need for secret and classified information to remain secret and classified in order to protect our national security interests.
So there are -- there is a careful balance here that must be attained. But I think it's important to look at the President's past here to understand where he comes from in this broadly -- broadly speaking, where he comes from in regard to issues like this. But we simply can't comment on the specific investigation.
Q President Obama is being compared to President Nixon on this. How does he feel about that?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have a reaction from President Obama. I can tell you that the people who make those kind of comparison need to check their history, because what we have here with one issue in Benghazi is so clearly -- as we're learning more and more -- a political sideshow, a deliberative effort to politicize a tragedy. The President feels very strongly about that. You heard him address that yesterday.
On these other issues, these are things that we are finding out about and we need to wait appropriately for independent action to be completed before he can in any way take action or comment specifically on it.
I think that it is a reflection of the sort of rapid politicization of everything that you have that kind of commentary. Everything becomes a huge political issue when if you look at the facts -- and I think Benghazi is instructive in this -- the real issue is that four Americans died. And we need to do everything we can, as the President has committed himself to doing, to finding out who did it, finding out why, and to taking the steps necessary to ensure that our diplomatic personnel are protected and our facilities are protected, so that what happened in Benghazi doesn't happen again -- instead of trying to score political points, which Republicans have been doing since the hours after the attack. And it's very unfortunate.
And it's not what the American people expect us to do. Because -- going back to Jim's original question -- the President is here to try to achieve the things that he told the American people he would try to achieve and that they supported him in two elections now in trying to achieve, and that is to focus on the middle class, to help in any way he can to strengthen the middle class, to help the country build the economic foundation that's essential for the kind of dominance economically in the 21st century that this country enjoyed in the 20th. And that is what he spends his time focusing on -- that and the paramount interest of protecting the national security of the United States.
Q Jay, you say check our history, rapid commentary -- but you have to understand and hear how it sounds like the administration might be hiding something. So can we take these one at a time? On the IRS, on Friday, they gave one version of the story that's changed several times since then. So can you just say plainly, does the President believe that they're being truthful and does he think that the leadership there needs to change?
MR. CARNEY: I don't understand how that tracks with your first sentence about -- assertion here. We have seen the reports, as the President said, and if the reports are true, he would consider them outrageous.
Q Even this IRS has acknowledged that some of this wrongdoing has happened. So the President and this administration could agree --
MR. CARNEY: And I think you heard the President say yesterday that --
MR. CARNEY: -- if it turns out to be the case -- and there's a lot of reporting, not all of it complementary, some of it contradictory.
Q But, Jay, he also limited it to one -- he said there was IRS personnel, which sounded like it was isolated. We've now learned that it was --
MR. CARNEY: How could IRS personnel be isolated? That could be the entire agency.
Q Well, now that he learned that it touched the Washington, D.C. office, is he concerned that this is a broader problem, that this is more widespread?
MR. CARNEY: Jessica, he’s concerned by every report he sees on this. You can believe that he is concerned by that. And that is why he looks forward to finding out what the IG report says, and then deciding what next steps need to be taken and who needs to take them.
Instead of rushing to conclusions or perpetrating consequences before we even know specifically what happened and the whole story would be inappropriate for a President to do. And so, again, he made clear what his view of this action, if there was specific, deliberate targeting of conservative groups or any groups inappropriately, he would be outraged. And he finds the suggestions of that to be outrageous. But we cannot, and we should not, prejudge the outcome --
Q And what is the consequence of his outrage?
MR. CARNEY: -- of an investigation.
Q What is the consequence of his outrage?
MR. CARNEY: We'll see. How could he possibly say what the consequence will be before we know what the facts are. Shouldn't we let the facts be revealed by this independent Inspector General report before we make some conclusive judgments about what actions need to be taken?
Q Okay. On the IRS/DOJ story, we understand that you guys can’t get involved in a leaks investigation that could touch the White House and the administration, and that it’s a legal violation and it’s a legal issue that happened. But this involved multiple months, multiple locations, many phones. Is the President at all concerned about the breadth of the investigation, about the breadth and depth that the DOJ is using to pursue leaks in general, which has become a priority for this President? He’s prosecuted in this administration more people for leaks than every other President put together.
MR. CARNEY: Jessica, what I can tell you is that this President believes strongly in the First Amendment and is a strong defender of the First Amendment. He believes strongly in the need for the press to be unfettered in its pursuit of investigative journalism.
He also believes strongly, as a citizen and as President, in the need to ensure that classified information is not leaked, because it can endanger our national security interests; it can endanger American men and women around the world. But I cannot, and he cannot, appropriately, comment on the specifics of an ongoing criminal investigation for the reasons that you yourself just raised.
Q It’s not about the specifics of this investigation --
MR. CARNEY: You listed the specifics of the investigation or at least as reported.
Q Is he concerned at all about the precedent this is setting and that this is the legacy of his Attorney General?
MR. CARNEY: “This” I think refers to this investigation, so I cannot comment on that. What I can tell you is the President absolutely believes in the need for the press to be able to pursue unfettered investigative journalism. And you saw that in -- prior to his arrival in this office, when he was a senator and cosponsored legislation that would enhance protections for the media, and the principles that are behind that effort are ones that he holds to this day.
But I can’t -- I can’t then take that to a specific case that’s been reported in the press, again, that we learned about from the press, appropriately, because if we learned about it any other way it would be inappropriate.
Q So you’ll comment on it after the case is decided?
MR. CARNEY: Well --
Q I’m joking. Okay, go.
MR. CARNEY: Thank you.
Q Jay, can you say, categorically, that nobody at the White House and nobody on the President’s political team had any knowledge or was involved in any way in the targeting of tea party groups by the IRS?
MR. CARNEY: Yes.
Q Absolutely not?
MR. CARNEY: I mean, we found out about this -- or at least the Counsel’s Office was notified about this investigation, this activity -- potential activity -- very broadly just a few weeks ago. And beyond that, we have to -- we learn about everything we know about this from what we see in your reports. So that’s why we have to wait for the Inspector General's report before we can assess, based on that and what it tells us, what we know about what happened and what didn’t, and what actions should be taken, and then decide on what next steps should be taken.
Q Are people going to be fired over this?
MR. CARNEY: Again, we'll have to see what the report concludes, and what else needs to be done to find out, if necessary, what happened. The reports that we've seen are very troubling, and if true, and depending on the reports -- because there's been a series of different ones -- but if it is true that there was a knowing effort to target specific organizations, as reported -- conservative organizations -- that would be outrageous, in the President's view, and there should be consequences.
Q And while you clearly can't comment on the Justice Department investigation, as a principle, does the President approve of the idea of prosecutors going through the personal phone record and work phone records of journalists and their editors?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the effort to generalize the question, but obviously, that goes right to the heart of some of the reporting on this specific case. I can tell you that the President believes that the press, as a rule, needs to have an unfettered ability to pursue investigative journalism, and --
Q How can it be unfettered if you're worried about having your phones --
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I can't respond to this in the specific. And I am very understanding of the questions on this issue and appreciate the nature of the questions, and I think they go to important issues and they go to the fundamental issue of finding the balance between, when it comes to leaks of classified information of our nation's secrets, if you will, between the need to protect that information because of the national security implications of not protecting them, on the one hand, and the need to allow for an unfettered press in its pursuit of investigative journalism.
So this is a balance that the President believes is important that we have to find. And how he views these issues can be seen in the actions and proposals he's made in the past. But when it comes to this specific case, I simply cannot get into the details of our view or his view of it.
Q Just the last question -- is all of this, all of this swirl of controversy and stories affecting the President's ability to pursue his agenda?
MR. CARNEY: The President is focused on what he believes the American people expect from him and from their leaders in Washington, and you have seen that and you will continue to see that in the days and weeks and months ahead.
Overwhelmingly, Americans are concerned about continuing the recovery out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, building on the job creation that we've seen, continuing to expand and make more secure the middle class, taking the necessary steps to invest in our future so that our economy can grow later -- and that means bipartisan cooperation on things like investing in infrastructure or in innovation, in the kind of investment -- in the innovation hubs that the President talked about in Austin last week.
These are the issues that he’s focused on. They include comprehensive immigration reform, which he is constantly discussing with leaders and members of Congress, a bipartisan effort that he believes can and should produce a law that he can sign that reflects the principles that he’s laid out a long time ago.
So there’s a lot of work to be done, and he’s focused on that work.
Chip, good to see you. Welcome back.
Q Good to see you. I appreciate it. As you know, numerous members of Congress over a period of a couple years wrote the IRS and asked if conservative groups were being targeted. Those officials did not respond. If it turns out that those officials did know at the time that they were -- that conservative groups were being or had been targeted, should those officials be punished?
MR. CARNEY: That goes into -- I mean, the “if” phrasing is appropriate. If what we’re seeing in some of these reports about specific targeting and actions taken by personnel within the IRS turns out to be true, then people should be held accountable. And what that means in concrete action we’ll have to see based on the information and the facts that are gathered, principally, at least at first, by the Inspector General.
You heard from the President yesterday. You heard the outrage that he conveyed at the reports of this kind of activity --
Q Outrage or potential outrage? I mean, he’s only going to be outraged if --
MR. CARNEY: I don’t think you would want a President to be outraged on something that turned out -- about something that turned out not to be true. We have to wait --
Q The IRS apologized for part of it. Don’t we know that part of it is fact? It’s not in the “if” area anymore; it’s fact.
MR. CARNEY: I agree with that, and I think that that was reflected in the tone and the nature of the comments you saw from the President. But on the broader issue here, about getting all the facts, it really is important in our view and the President’s view, that we let the independent Inspector General complete that report, that we assess it when we see it -- because we haven’t seen it. There have been suggestions in the reports that some of it has leaked out, but we haven’t seen it. We don’t have access to it. And when we do, we’ll be able to assess it a lot more specifically than we can now.
Q And one other question, following up on Jim’s question about what he called the confluence of issues -- you’ve got Benghazi, IRS, HHS, DOJ. If you read some of the articles on this, it almost sounds like there’s a siege going on. Is there a siege mentality back there in the West Wing right now?
MR. CARNEY: Absolutely not. We are focused on the things that we can do to help the middle class; the things that we can do to move our economy forward; to help our kids get educated; work with Congress to achieve what will hopefully be a bipartisan comprehensive immigration bill that this President can sign into law; working with Congress -- as you’ve seen over the last weeks and months -- to see if we can find common ground on reducing our deficit in a balanced way that will help the economy grow, help it create more jobs. We are focused on these fundamental issues that the American people sent this President to this office twice now to focus on.
And I understand the effort -- I understand the natural inclination to try to bunch some of these things together, but there really is a distinction here. And I think you heard it from the President. The ongoing obsession -- and I’m quoting now somebody describing the Speaker of the House -- ”the ongoing obsession” with talking points and Benghazi and the attempts to politicize that constitute a sideshow that’s driven purely by -- or largely by political interest, and not the interest of finding out exactly what happened and who was responsible, and taking the steps that we need to take to ensure that our diplomats and our facilities are secure.
That’s what the President has been focused on. That’s what you’ve seen in the report from the ARB -- the Accountability Review Board that was overseen by Admiral Mullen and Ambassador Pickering. And it’s what you’ve seen in the President’s insistence that the investigation led by the FBI into finding out who is responsible for the deaths of four Americans reach a point where we can bring those responsible to justice.
Q Jay, on the AP phone records, what prevents the President from picking up a phone, calling Eric Holder and asking him, what happened?
MR. CARNEY: Enormous -- a great deal prevents the President from doing that. It would be wholly inappropriate for the President to involve himself in a criminal investigation that, as Jessica points out, at least as reported, involves leaks of information from the administration. I mean, imagine the story on Fox if that were to happen. So that’s why.
And this is -- we have seen from the press reports the information about attempts to seek phone records from the Associated Press and we’re not involved in those decisions, and we can’t comment on an ongoing criminal investigation for reasons that I think -- I know that maybe the question was rhetorical -- but I think are pretty apparent to everyone who's covered these things over the years.
Q Is it your understanding that no one could have ordered this but the Attorney General?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it's my understanding that this is something that the Department of Justice does and that the investigators in the Department of Justice handle. There is, I believe, when it comes to these kinds of things, a decision-making process. But I would refer you the Department of Justice for who actually made the decision that’s been reported, because, again, our information comes only from press reports on this.
Q If that turns out to be the Attorney General, or whoever it turns out to be, will the President have confidence in that person?
MR. CARNEY: The President has confidence in the Attorney General. He has confidence in his team over at the Department of Justice. I think that the -- again, I'm not going to comment on the specifics of an investigation here. I think that it is important to note that, as I said earlier, that there is a balance here that has to be struck between our national security interests and the need to prevent classified information from leaking -- classified information that can endanger Americans and harm our national security on the one hand, and the President's firm commitment to the need for reporters to be able to, in an unfettered way pursue investigative journalism.
Q And do you believe it's possible to strike that balance, and at the same time subpoena the phone records of reporters?
MR. CARNEY: Wendell, I just can't comment on the specific reports that you cite. I can say that the President does believe that that balance should be sought and can be found. But it is a balance and, therefore, something that we need to constantly work at. And you've seen from the past, from the measures that the President supported as a senator, that he believed action should be taken to alter the balance. But I cannot comment on this specific investigation, for all the obvious reasons.
Q But we know it happened, just as the IRS admitted what it had done in terms of the tea party and other groups. The AP knows its records were -- phone records were subpoenaed because the Justice Department told the AP. Can the President find any way that that might fit in the balance that you say needs to be struck?
MR. CARNEY: Again, it would be inappropriate to comment on the specific investigation and the methods that have been reported. I can tell you that it is important to protect our national security classified information. It is also, in the President's view, essential to allow journalists to be able to pursue in an unfettered way investigative journalism.
Q Jay, you keep talking about that then-senator Obama supported a certain piece of legislation -- that is a fact. As President, he killed that piece of legislation in October of 2009 that made it so that the protections that he supported -- having judicial review on this issue --
MR. CARNEY: The President supported --
Q -- about supporting, and then he -- there was an opportunity for this bill to be passed, Chuck Schumer was supportive of it, and he said it was the White House that had problems with it and killed it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, first of all, you're talking about separate pieces of legislation and a legislative history that bears a little more looking into. The President's position on this is what it was as a senator. But the fact is I cannot then appropriately apply his support for that measure --
Q If he supported this piece of legislation, we wouldn't be having this conversation today, because there would be -- he supported a judicial review when it came to some of this protecting of sources --
MR. CARNEY: And what happened to it in 2007?
Q I'm asking you what happened to it in 2009, when he was President of the United States.
MR. CARNEY: It was killed by Republicans. Well, the legislative history here is a little more complicated than you present.
Q Democrats were in charge. This is 2009. Who cares about 2007? We know what he said on the campaign trail in 2008 in front of the Associated Press when it came to this issue. He had a chance to support this and make this bill happen. Why did he change his position?
MR. CARNEY: The President's position on this has not changed.
Q Yes, it has.
MR. CARNEY: No, it hasn't, Chuck.
Q The administration said that they -- essentially, the President changed his position because of certain things on national security. Can you explain why he changed his position?
MR. CARNEY: Broadly speaking, the President does support the ability of journalists in an unfettered way to pursue investigative journalism. He believes that we have to find a balance between that goal --
Q So the balance he believed in '08 he didn't believe in once he was President?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I think that he has addressed this some. And I think you are obviously free to ask him when -- the next time he has a press conference to ask him about this. But the fact is as President, he obviously has responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief to ensure that classified information, that the nation's secrets that is highly sensitive information is not leaked, because the leaking of that information can endanger individuals as well as our overall national security interests.
Q Does he believe that a third party should have -- make that decision? That's fine. As a candidate, he believed -- he said that the point of the press is sometimes to be a watchdog of the watchdog a little bit, and that the judiciary branch is probably the appropriate place for them to make that determination. Look, you guys will claim classified -- and it's not just you as an administration -- any administration claims everything is somehow a national security leak and fall under the rubrics of that. But having a third party make that decision about is it truly going to endanger lives, is it truly going to do this, and you make your case in front of a third party -- does the President support that kind of protection for media sources?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have an answer to that specific scenario that you laid out. I can tell you that the President does support --
Q It is what he supported in 2008.
MR. CARNEY: He does support protections for the media. He does believe that we need to take measures to ensure that the media can pursue investigative journalism in an unfettered way. And we have to balance that goal with the very real national security interests that we have as a nation. And, understandably, there is great concern when classified information is leaked that can jeopardize our national security interests or endanger individuals.
Q I want to follow up on the IRS. I still don't quite understand the timeline. We had members of Congress complaining about this for two years. Did it just never reach you guys here at the White House that there was these complaints that conservative groups felt that they were being singled out and targeted at any point in time?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not sure that people -- I'm sure people were aware of and knew some of the stories that had been reported about the complaints, but we were not aware of any activity or of any review conducted by the Inspector General until several weeks ago.
Q Should you have been made aware sooner?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I was asked that before and I don't want to --
Q I don't understand. Why wouldn't you want to know sooner?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, for all the reasons why there should be distance between -- why the IRS should not be politicized, there has to be that distance. But on the specific question that you have, I want to wait and see what the report says and wait and see what we actually know happened and what the facts are before we comment beyond what the President said yesterday on this matter and before we make any decisions or pronouncements about what actions should be taken.
You heard what the President said about what he believes and what he feels should what's reported about specific targeting turn out to be true. But we need to wait and see if that's in fact the case, and what the scope of it is before we make decisions about how to proceed.
Q Do you have any update about when you're going to -- I know that Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee is saying he’s been waiting for an explanation on Hamid Karzai claiming cash payments from the CIA and that these cash payments are continuing. And he has been confirming this and claiming it in Afghanistan. And Senator Corker was hoping for an explanation from the President. And he says it's now been two letters and he hasn't gotten any explanation.
MR. CARNEY: I'm not aware of the letters. I'll have to take the question. The specific story itself involves the CIA and I'd have to refer you to them. With regards to the letters, I'll let you know if there’s a response.
Q Jay, you've used this formulation about the President's support for unfettered investigative reporting a number of times here. To what extent is he -- is the former constitutional law professor in the Oval Office torn between that philosophy and the case for going after leaks?
MR. CARNEY: I think the appropriate way to describe is that the President believes there needs to be a balance, because there is an interest in making sure that classified information that is sensitive is not leaked, because of the consequences to national security and to individuals -- but there is also an interest, in the President's view, in ensuring that the press can pursue investigative journalism and be unfettered in that pursuit.
And to the earlier point that Chuck was making, even after he became President, the Attorney General and Director of National Intelligence -- after the President took office, his Attorney General and his Director of National Intelligence sent a letter to Congress in November of 2009 expressing the administration's support for media shield legislation. So the position that the President held as a senator he continues to hold as President.
But that balance is important. And again, without commenting on specific reports about specific cases, we have to be mindful of the fact that national security interests are significant and classified information needs to be protected.
Q Well, he has to know that a reporter can't be unfettered if a reporter is subjected to a fishing expedition of personal phone records and office phone records.
MR. CARNEY: Well, Peter, broadly speaking, I think that the President understands that a reporter needs to be shielded in the way that he supported as a senator and has supported as a President. I cannot, because of the nature of your question, express an opinion about reported developments in a criminal investigation currently underway at the Department of Justice.
Q Jay, you just said, categorically, that you could say no one from the White House or on the President's political team was involved. That’s a pretty unequivocal answer on your part. And yet, the bulk of this press conference is you saying, you don’t have all the facts; it's a wait-and-see approach.
MR. CARNEY: Well, that a fair point. What I can tell you is that --
Q What gives you that confidence?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that, as I think I said yesterday, the White House Counsel was alerted about this IG review and the general topic of it just a few weeks ago. And I didn’t find out about it --
Q How do we get to there from being categorically certain that no one from the White House's team or the political team was involved?
MR. CARNEY: I have no reason to believe --
Q So you're doing it on good faith, that this is just your assumption?
MR. CARNEY: Well, because I can tell you that I am not aware of anyone here knowing about it. It would be, obviously --
Q So it's down to your direct knowledge of being aware of anyone here?
MR. CARNEY: Hans, you can ask me if somebody who works in the --
Q You've asserted something categorically and I don't understand how you know that.
MR. CARNEY: I can say that I am certainly not aware of and am confident that no one here was involved in this. We found out about it just a few weeks ago, and only -- and when I say "we," I didn’t, the President didn’t, but the White House Counsel's Office only found out about the review being conducted and coming to conclusion by the Inspector General.
Q So what gives you the confidence?
MR. CARNEY: I think I can say that I feel confident in that, but I don’t have anything --
Q But do you have any facts?
MR. CARNEY: You're asking me to prove a negative, Hans.
Q Well, you've made the assertion. You've asserted that you're confident that no one -- you're the one that actually put the -- put it out there.
MR. CARNEY: Again, you heard the President express his views. And we're going to wait and see what the facts are, based on the independent Inspector General review. And then we will make judgments about those facts and what next steps might be taken and by whom, and what actions might be taken. But I'm just not going to get into any more details about it because it would be inappropriate to do so.
Q I want to follow up on a question Jessica asked that has nothing to do with the specific investigation. This administration, in the last four years, has prosecuted twice as many leakers as every previous administration combined. How does that reflect balance?
MR. CARNEY: I would say that the President is committed to the press's ability to pursue information, to defending the First Amendment. He is also, as a citizen and as Commander-in-Chief, committed to the proposition that we cannot allow classified information to be -- that can do harm to our national security interests or to endanger individuals to be leaked. And that is a balance that has to be struck.
Q But the record of the last four years does not suggest balance.
MR. CARNEY: That’s your opinion, Ari.
Q No. It’s twice as many prosecutions as all previous administrations combined -- that’s not even close.
MR. CARNEY: I understand that there are ongoing investigations that preceded this administration. But again, I’m not going to -- I can tell you what the President’s views are, and the President’s views include his defense of the First Amendment, his belief that journalists ought to be able to pursue information in an unfettered way, and that is backed up by his support for a media shield law both as senator and as President. And it is also true that he believes a balance needs to be struck between those goals and the need to protect classified information.
And you’re not going to hear him say that it’s okay for the nation’s secrets to be freely reported when that information can endanger our national security and do harm to individuals and endanger individuals.
Q Do you think a fair analysis of this administration’s actions reflect the views you’ve just described?
MR. CARNEY: I believe that the President supports balance and that he has made that clear both as President and within his administration. I cannot comment on a specific case, but I can tell you what the President believes and what his actions have been in the past.
Q The Pakistani elections?
MR. CARNEY: Let me move around a bit.
Q You just mentioned that you said the President has made this goal of balance clear within his administration. Can you describe how he’s communicated that within the administration or within the -- to the Justice Department as far as guidance?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President’s position -- I think I just cited a November, 2009 letter to Congress from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence, expressing the administration’s support, the Obama administration’s support for media shield legislation. So that is a clear expression from several components of the administration about the President’s views. I can tell you that, as somebody who spends a lot of time with him and speaks about the press frequently, that he firmly believes in the need to defend the First Amendment and the need for reporters to be able to do their jobs.
He is also, as Commander-in-Chief and a citizen, interested in the protection of sensitive information that can, if released, endanger our national security or endanger individuals. And I think that is a balance that every American would expect a President to seek, both in his views and in his actions.
Q He’s talked about that with you privately, or with Eric Holder or --
MR. CARNEY: I’m just saying that I know because I’ve spent time with him what his general views about this matter are.
Q Jay, a couple of questions. Did you know that the Attorney General has recused himself of this investigation? Did you know that?
MR. CARNEY: I did learn that before I came out. It was reported right before I came out.
Q So you said earlier that it wouldn’t make any -- it would be inappropriate for the President to talk to him.
MR. CARNEY: As a general matter, for the President to pick up the phone and call the Attorney General about an ongoing criminal investigation led by the Department of Justice into, in part, the administration, I think it’s safe to say that would be inappropriate. And I think everybody in this room would consider it inappropriate.
Q Okay, well, let me ask you two more questions. Is there an expectation around here at the White House that this leak investigation can expand to more news outlets beyond the Associated Press?
MR. CARNEY: Again, this is not something we would have knowledge about, and I would have to refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q And one more question. At any time during this administration, do you have any knowledge of any wire taps or any tapping of workspaces of reporters? This is a serious question.
MR. CARNEY: No. And again, this is --
Q You don't?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t. And any suggestion that somebody here would goes to the heart of what I'm saying. These are questions for the Department of Justice, and I would refer you to what's been reported.
First of all, Connie, happy birthday.
Q Thank you so much. Is there a possibility that any of the private Obama administration, people who support the President or the Democratic candidate could have instigated these leaks on the IRS or anybody?
MR. CARNEY: Instigated the leaks?
Q Instigated --
MR. CARNEY: I have no idea. I think that the reporting -- people are -- sources are cited. I mean, you're asking me sort of hypotheticals about things that I wouldn’t be able to answer.
Q And one more question. The President is human. When he first found out about these, especially the AP story, did he curse? Did he scream? What was his reaction?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not going to read out a private conversation, but I can tell you that he found out about it yesterday. (Laughter.)
Q Jay, three quick questions. Can I just follow up -- when you were saying that the President doesn’t involve himself in an ongoing criminal investigation, just to clarify, which ones are we talking about? I'm thinking about Trayvon Martin, and I'm thinking about (inaudible) case. Just could you explain and clarify what you mean?
MR. CARNEY: Alexis, the President -- the federal investigation that has been reported, again, based on news reports. And we do not, appropriately so, have any insight into that investigation or communications about that investigation. So we have no knowledge independently of any attempt by the Justice Department to subpoena phone records of the Associated Press beyond the press reports that we've read.
Q Second question -- about the IRS, following up on what Chuck and Hans were asking you. It was reported in very estimable news organizations for several years the complaints from the organizations that felt that they were being targeted by IRS. We have very prominent lawmakers on the Republican side of the aisle who actually gave speeches about it and talked about it long before you would have known about the IG report. So I just wanted to make sure -- are we going to find out, because of the President's animosity or his feelings or shortcomings about Citizen's United, that he himself appreciated or wanted the IRS to be looking and scrutinizing those --
MR. CARNEY: That’s a preposterous assertion, Alexis. And the fact of the matter is you heard from the President that if this turns out to be true, he would be outraged. And he specifically said if there was specific targeting of conservative groups, that would be wrong and outrageous, and there should be people held accountable for it. It's not who we are. It's not the way the IRS should ever operate -- if it turns out to be true.
Q Third question -- can I just follow up? Third question, quick question on Benghazi. CNN obtained part of an email leaked as part of that email trail that was sent to the Congress. So my question is, because we're eight months into what you call the political circus, and part of that email has come out, will the White House --
MR. CARNEY: I think the entire email -- the report I read showed the entire email, and what it showed is that Republicans who were leaking these press -- these emails that have been shared with Congress didn’t just do that; they decided to fabricate portions of an email and make up portions of an email in order to fit a political narrative. And I think -- I'm not surprised by it because we've seen it again and again. We've seen it in the -- remember the issue in the committee's report, the Republicans committee report, about Secretary Clinton's signature, and the fact that they, of course, didn’t include the truth behind that, that this was an automated signature and she had no involvement in that email.
So I think it just reinforces what we've seen, which is an ongoing effort to politicize this, to take -- to cherry-pick information, or in this case, just make it up, in order to fit a political narrative.
Q So my question to you is, after eight months of what you call the political circus, why not just put out the emails now, do the data dump now?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I'd say a couple of things -- because not in your question is the fact that we provided these emails to Congress, to relevant committees, as well as leaders several months ago. At the time, some Republicans said they were fairly satisfied with the information, that they felt they knew what they needed to know. This was about the confirmation of John Brennan as the new head of the CIA. They moved forward with that nomination and confirmed John Brennan in that position.
The Speaker of the House is reported to be "obsessed" with Benghazi and the political benefits of this pursuit.
Q But you’re --
MR. CARNEY: Well, hold on, I'll get to it. I'm just doing a great prelude to the answer, which is that -- (laughter) --
Q If you do say so.
MR. CARNEY: Preface to the answer. So the Speaker of the House is “obsessed” with this, has made all sorts of demands, and that it turns out that his office was provided the information, but obsessed as he was, he didn't show up to get the briefing and spend the time with the emails. But a staffer did, so he has known all along what these emails contain and what they don't contain.
So I think the evidence is pretty overwhelming.
Q The answer is --
MR. CARNEY: The answer is what I've said before, which --
Q We're going to see them or we're not?
MR. CARNEY: -- is that this is, as has been consistently the case with administrations of both parties, the internal deliberations of an -- Alexis, shake your head and editorialize, but let me finish.
Q -- other administrations when it didn't work and the information comes out -- just put it out.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the information comes out, but not -- if people leak information, as they have on the Hill for political purposes, that's one thing. As a matter of course, releasing internal deliberations is something that goes to the kind of protections that have existed for the executive branch for many administrations of both parties.
And the fact is -- and I think, again, in the full reporting of this story -- we did something rather extraordinary, which is provide these emails to the committees, the relevant committees, in camera -- fancy legal term for meaning they could spend all the time they wanted with them, make notes, copy them verbatim -- or not so verbatim, as it turns out -- and then go on their way and make their assessments, which is what we did.
Q Has the President spoken to Pakistan's incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after the election?
MR. CARNEY: He has. Today, the President spoke by phone with Nawaz Sharif, President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, to congratulate him on his party's success in the May 11 parliamentary elections. As you know, over the weekend the President also commended the people of Pakistan on the successful completion of their parliamentary elections. The United States stands with all Pakistanis in welcoming this historic, peaceful and transparent transfer of civilian power, which is a significant milestone in Pakistan's democratic progress.
It really is important to note the significance of consecutive democratic elections and the transfer of civilian power from one government to the next.
The United States and Pakistan have a long history of working together on mutual interests. And this administration looks forward to continuing our cooperation with the Pakistani government that emerges from this election as equal partners in supporting a more stable, secure and prosperous future for the people of Pakistan.
Q In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the incoming Prime Minister spoke about the drone strikes and he wants them to stop. Did that issue come up during the conversation?
MR. CARNEY: I think the contents of this conversation were reflected in what I just said.
Q Does the White House, amid all those nice words about the Pakistan election, have a position on the fact The New York Times Islamabad's bureau chief was asked to leave the country with 72 hours' notice literally on the day of that election?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a specific reaction to that from the White House. We obviously have a broad interest not just in the matters that we've been discussing here today, but in general, including in international reporting and in governments around the country [sic] permitting journalists -- American and otherwise -- to operate freely.
I don't have the specifics on this case, at least in an official capacity. I certainly have followed it and read about it. But it's a general principle that we believe reporters ought to be able to work and to work safely around the world.
Q Can I follow on one thing on Benghazi? Does the White House -- and this goes back to the talking points -- does the White House believe that the State Department had valid equities that needed to be protected in the drafting of those talking points?
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the CNN story about a particular email that was misrepresented in the reporting about it originally where there was actually no discussion of the State Department specifically. But in general, the process that we've described where agencies with a stake in an issue like what happened in Benghazi obviously are part of it and present their views. In this case, the CIA had the lead when it came to drafting the talking points.
Much unreported is that many of the iterations of these so-called talking points or at least the discussions about what should be included contained changes made from within the CIA, as I think people have recognized. But in the end, what was produced by the CIA was a distillation of both the view of the agencies involved, but most importantly reflective of what the CIA felt at the top was a fair representation for public use of what they knew at that time.
And as we know, and as was made clear in the talking points themselves -- because they were caveated to explain that more information would become available, that our picture would change and evolve of what happened -- some of what was originally put forward as what we believed to have happened in Benghazi turned out not to be true, which we acknowledged and talked about when that became evident. So as the President said yesterday, the head of the NCTC went up and talked about just that just a few days after Ambassador Rice was on those Sunday shows.
Q But the key misrepresentation in that email was the fact the email, as reported, had the State Department singled out, and it appears the valid email did not have the State Department singled out. So I guess my question is -- the State Department raised a series of concerns. Are we to believe that those concerns were not as uppermost in the minds in the White House?
MR. CARNEY: I think you should believe that, as I understand it, it was a -- there was an effort here, a focus here and elsewhere, on making sure that what we said as an administration and what we provided to Congress was as accurate as it could be and did not -- there was a lot of misinformation, as is always the case in an incident like this in the initial hours and days afterwards, and a lot of assessments about what might have happened but contradictory information about what might have happened. And it’s the job of the intelligence community, in this case, to sort of filter through that and assess what its position is and what those points for public consumption can reflect. And that’s what happened.
So I don’t think it was about one particular agency. I think it was about the community at large, led by the, in this case, CIA.
Q One more, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: One more.
MR. CARNEY: Turkey.
Q Thank you. Turkish Prime Minister is right now on the plane to come here. My first question -- two quick questions. In Reyhanli, a border town with Syria, 50 people got killed and dozens of injured. What’s your reaction? We have not heard any reaction from White House. And is this going to change any of your approach to spillover effect -- one of your allies. And second question I’ll ask afterwards.
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, the United States condemns the car bombings in Reyhanli over the weekend, and we stand with Turkey against such horrific violence. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of the victims and our thoughts are with those who are wounded.
It’s important to note always, but particularly appropriate with the arrival of the Prime Minister, that Turkey is one of our strongest partners. We have worked shoulder to shoulder with the Turks to counter terror threats, and this attack will only strengthen our resolve to work together to protect our people and fight instability and violence in the region.
This is something that I fully expect -- this incident will be a matter of discussion between the Prime Minister and the President. As friends and NATO allies, the United States and Turkey are partners in addressing a range of critical global and regional issues. They will clearly discuss Syria, which is an interest that they share. They will also talk about stability in the Middle East, trade and economic cooperation, and countering global terrorism overall.
The Prime Minister’s visit underscores the close friendship between the U.S. and Turkey, and the strategic importance we place on broadening and deepening that relationship moving forward.
Q On chemical weapon in Syria, the U.N. chemical weapon chief said that time is running out. He said this a few days ago, and he said that traces of an attack might be impossible to obtain very soon. And it has been over three weeks that your administration admitted that it was used. What’s the latest update? Is there any other evidence you have?
MR. CARNEY: We are working with our allies as well as with the Syrian opposition to gather evidence. We continue to call on President Bashar al-Assad to allow the United Nations to conduct an investigation into the use of chemical weapons -- an investigation that President Assad said he wanted but has now blocked. But we’re not relying on the U.N. alone. We are pursuing and gathering information independently of that and working with our allies and, most importantly, the Syrian opposition.
I don’t have the depth of information about the progress that’s being made to assess whether or not the report you said about the evidence available -- whether or not that’s the case. I know that we have been, for some time now, working in an effort to build on the intelligence community’s assessment about the use of chemical weapons to make sure that we have a case, if you will, a set of facts that can be corroborated and reviewed, and from which we can make assessments about possible policy actions.
Even as that takes place, as you have seen, at the direction of the President, we have stepped up our humanitarian assistance; we have stepped up our assistance to the Syrian opposition; we have made assistance available directly to the Supreme Military Council of the opposition -- nonlethal assistance, but we have stepped it up.
And that process of constantly assessing the options that are available to us in this situation, assessing the ways that we can provide assistance to the opposition will continue even as we gather facts about possible chemical use.
Thanks very much.
2:07 P.M. EDT
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, Director of National Drug Control Policy, R. Gil Kerlikowske, Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and Associate Director of Latino Affairs and Immigration for the Office of Public Engagement at the White House Julie Chavez Rodriguez met with law enforcement officials from across the country today at the White House’s Eisenhower Executive Office Building to discuss their shared support for commonsense immigration reform.
The briefing was the latest opportunity to hear directly from the law enforcement officials about the importance of immigration reform from a local law enforcement perspective.
Secretary Napolitano and Director Kerlikowske made it clear that broad immigration reform is the single best step we can take to continue to enhance border security, enabling our officers and agents along the border to spend the bulk of their time focused on public safety and national security threats. They also underscored the unprecedented investments in personnel, technology and resources this Administration has made to secure our borders and make border communities safer.
Attempts to cross the border illegally totaled nearly 365,000 nationwide in FY 2012, representing a nearly 50 percent decrease since FY 2008 and a 78 percent decrease from their peak in FY 2000 according to DHS; and that from FY 2009 to 2012, CBP and ICE seized 71 percent more currency, 39 percent more drugs, and 189 percent more weapons along the Southwest border as compared to FY 2005 to 2008.
Today’s meeting was the latest engagement the Administration has had with a broad range of stakeholders who support bipartisan common sense immigration reform efforts underway. Similar meetings have been held with business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and representatives of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials – like those the Administration met with today.
The following associations participated in today’s meeting:
- The International Association of Chiefs of Police
- Major City Chiefs Association
- Major County Sheriffs Association
- National Sheriffs Association
- Fraternal Order of Police
- National Association of Police Organizations
- Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
- Police Executive Research Forum
- Conference of Western Attorneys General
- Network of former Attorneys General
President Obama spoke by phone today with Nawaz Sharif, President of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, to congratulate him on his party’s success in the May 11 Parliamentary elections. The President also thanked Mr. Sharif for his role in the historic transfer of power between civilian governments, a significant milestone in Pakistan’s democracy.
President Obama praised the extraordinary voter turnout and courage that Pakistanis displayed in the face of intimidation by violent extremists, which was an inspiration to all who support democracy around the globe. The two leaders agreed to continue to work together to strengthen U.S.-Pakistan relations and advance our shared interest of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan and region.
On May 16th, the White House is kicking off “We the Geeks,” a new series of Google+ Hangouts to highlight the future of science, technology, and innovation here in the United States. Topics such as commercial space exploration, science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education, turning science fiction to science fact, and others will be discussed with Administration officials and key private sector contributors.
The first "We the Geeks" Hangout will focus on Grand Challenges, ambitious goals on a national or global scale that capture the imagination and demand advances in innovation and breakthroughs in science and technology. Grand Challenges are an important element of President Obama’s Strategy for American Innovation. On April 2nd, the President called on companies, research universities, foundations, and philanthropists to join with him in identifying and pursuing the Grand Challenges of the 21st century.
|Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks With Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry delivers remarks with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt in Stockholm, Sweden on May 14, 2013. A text transcript can be found at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2013/05/209352.htm.
|From: statevideo Views: 425 7 ratings|
|Time: 19:31||More in News & Politics|
President Obama called Prime Minister Najib on the evening of May 13 to congratulate him on his victory in parliamentary elections and to reaffirm the strong bonds of friendship between the United States and Malaysia. The President noted that Malaysians had turned out in record numbers to vote and welcomed the Prime Minister’s efforts to address concerns about election irregularities. The two leaders discussed the importance of continuing to deepen our bilateral cooperation, including on expanding cooperation on trade, regional security, and multilateral cooperation.
On Friday, May 17th at 10:00am MT (12:00pm ET), Dr. Biden will give the commencement address to the 33rd graduating class of Navajo Technical College (NTC) -- one of two tribal colleges serving the Navajo Nation.
Many of the programs at NTC are designed to help create new jobs and economic opportunities on or near the Navajo Nation, while equipping their students with the skills they need to succeed in those jobs.
You can watch live using the video player below.
(Jeff Martin, National Women’s Law Center)
During his State of the Union address in February, President Obama called on Congress to expand access to high-quality preschool to every four-year old in America. As the President put it that day:
In states that make it a priority to educate our youngest children, like Georgia or Oklahoma, studies show students grow up more likely to read and do math at grade level, graduate high school, hold a job, form more stable families of their own. We know this works. So let’s do what works and make sure none of our children start the race of life already behind. Let’s give our kids that chance.
Yesterday, I had the pleasure to meet with mothers, leaders, and tireless advocates that understand that the best investment we can make as a country is in our children’s future.
The coalition came to the White House to deliver 30,000 letters and art work thanking the President for his proposal to make high-quality preschool available for all children – and I used the opportunity to thank them for all their hard work, and to hear from them about the work they continue to do advocating for children.
They understand that for every dollar spent on high-quality early education, we save more than seven dollars in the long run by boosting kindergarten readiness, graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, and even reducing violent crime. They also understand that providing our children with the best start possible in life is not only a moral imperative, but an economic imperative that will benefit our communities and our nation far into the future.