Daily Archives: August 5, 2015

New Details: President Obama Hosts First-Ever White House Demo Day

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, President Obama will host the first-ever White House Demo Day focused on inclusive entrepreneurship, welcoming startup founders from diverse walks of life and from across the country to showcase their innovations.

The President will also announce new public- and private-sector commitments that promise to provide more Americans with the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas.

Additional details on White House Demo Day

A number of Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship and leaders in business, philanthropy and non-profit sector will have an opportunity to attend the event and meet the exhibiting entrepreneurs. Attendees include:

Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship

Steve Case, Chairman and CEO, Revolution

Daymond John, Founder, President and CEO, FUBU

Alison Rosenthal, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships, Wealthfront, Inc.

Public and Private Leaders

William Bell, Mayor, Birmingham, Alabama

Bobby Franklin, President and CEO, National Venture Capital Association

Michael Gillette, Mayor, Lynchburg, Virginia

Rosalind Hudnell, Chief Diversity Officer, Intel

Mitch Kapor, Founder, Kapor Capital

Kay Koplovitz, Founder, USA Network

Jeff Lawson, Founder and CEO, Twilio

Evan Sharp, Co-Founder, Pinterest

Exhibits at White House Demo Day include:

BlueOak finds the treasure in trashed smartphones (Privahini Bradoo, San Francisco, California) Every day, U.S. consumers throw away enough cell phones to blanket 50 football fields. To Privahini Bradoo, people might as well throw away their jewelry: one ton of cell phones contains as much gold as 70 tons of gold ore. Seeing a business opportunity, Bradoo founded BlueOak. BlueOak is an electronics recycling firm that harvests the valuable precious metals out of old smartphones and TVs. BlueOak is building low-cost and environmentally friendly refineries to recycle critical metals from e-waste. Their flagship refinery is located in Osceola, Arkansas. Born in India, raised in Oman and New Zealand, and educated in Boston, Bradoo pulls from diverse life experiences to lead her company and make a positive impact in the world.

After a car accident left her blind for 11 years, Ramona Pierson founded a company to build a new kind of search engine (Ramona Pierson, Palo Alto, California)

In 1984, at age 22, Ramona Pierson was hit by a drunk driver. The car tore her body apart, slicing open her throat, gouging her chest, and leaving her heart and lungs fully exposed. Pierson was in a coma for 18 months. She was totally blind for 11 years, though she has regained partial sight in her left eye thanks to a corneal transplant. It was the process of having to learn just about everything from scratch – including how to breathe and walk – that made her realize how important it was to be a lifelong learner. And it’s that notion that inspired her to start Declara. Declara has developed a ways for people to learn in more personalized ways, through advanced semantic search and predictive analysis. In three years, Declara has grown to 65 employees, and attracted $32.5 million in funding. Pierson also serves as a mentor for LGBT entrepreneurs.

Cancer survivor founds company to connect patients and improve care delivery

(Tatyana Kanzaveli & Maksim Tsvetovat, Los Altos, California) After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013, Tatyana Kanzaveli decided to found a company that could help others. The security of having access to coverage under the Affordable Care Act helped her make the decision to start her own company. Open Health Network is a smart mobile health platform that helps healthcare organizations, researchers, and patient advocate groups create cutting-edge mobile applications that run on any device and in any language in a day without coding. Application modules include patient surveys, social networking, wearable device integration, and other customizable modules. 

After losing his parents to HIV/AIDS, entrepreneur founds HIV testing company (Christopher Ategeka and Anwaar Al-Zireeni, San Francisco, California) Ugandan-born Christopher Ategeka, who lost both of his parents to HIV/AIDS, has dedicated his life to improving healthcare for those suffering from the disease. For his work, Ategeka earned a U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) award. In 2013, Ategeka teamed up with fellow University of California—Berkeley graduate Anwaar Al-Zireeni to co-found Privail, a company that is commercializing low-cost, early HIV detection technology developed by Al-Zireeni. The technology is a portable, easy to use testing device that can directly detect HIV virus in the bloodstream faster than antibody or antigen based tests, and for a fraction of the cost of traditional RNA detection techniques.

Smart baby monitor can track a baby’s vital signs using only a video camera (Rubi Sanchez, San Francisco, California) Rubi Sanchez, the founder and CEO of Wearless Tech Inc., is a graduate of the University of California—Berkeley with experience in the health care industry. Her company has developed Cocoon Cam, a patent-pending solution that uses computer vision and cloud-based data analytics to transform the capabilities of a traditional baby monitor. Using their unique software, a digital video camera, and non-invasive infrared technology, Cocoon Cam can track a baby’s heart rate, respiration, and skin temperature from a distance. Parents can stream video and wellness information to their smartphone to know exactly what is going on with their baby’s health at any time.  The Cocoon Cam team was trained through the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program.

Working mom of two turns family handmade popcorn tradition into snack food startup

(Jean Arnold, San Francisco, California) Jean Arnold grew up loving the fresh popcorn her mother would cook using a hand-cranked stove-top popper. As an adult, she spent years experimenting with making her own organic popcorn and flavoring it with exotic seasonings inspired by her training at Le Cordon Bleu in London. Now, as the founder of 479°, Arnold has turned her love of popcorn into a gourmet snack business that is sold around the country.

Two veterans developed an app and website with skills learned at a coding bootcamp to make new arrivals to military bases feel like locals (Billy Griffin and Tony Hatala, Denver, Colorado) When new troops arrive at a military base with no idea where to get a haircut or find an ATM, they load up the Base Directory app. Founded by two military officers who met on deployment, Base Directory helps service members and their families connect with resources on military installations After the initial launch of the app, co-founder Billy Griffin realized that, in order to take the company to the next level, they needed the technical know-how to maintain the app and build a new website. So he enrolled in Galvanize, a 12 week coding bootcamp that has made commitments to the TechHire initiative, where he learned the programming skills to succeed as the company’s Chief Technology Officer.  The service saves people time and frustration by getting them the information they need in a quick and easy-to-use way. The company’s app and website provide a directory of locations, phone numbers, and even movie show times for U.S. military bases worldwide.

West Point-born sisters transform surplus military gear into stylish fashion pieces (Betsy Núñez & Emily Núñez Cavness, Denver, Colorado) U.S. Army Officer, Emily, and her sister grew up in a military family. As kids, they shared Thanksgiving dinners with hundreds of soldiers in Army mess halls. Now, their fashion company, Sword & Plough, takes surplus military gear that might otherwise be wasted and repurposes it for rugged and refined bags. The business employs veterans at every stage of the business (as designers, managers, sewers, quality control experts, and even models). Since launching and raising 15 times their original funding goal on an online crowdfunding platform in 2013, the Sword & Plough team has repurposed 30,000 lbs. of military surplus and has shipped over 7,000 bags and accessories globally. By investing in their employees and donating 10 percent of after-tax profits to organizations that support veteran employment, they have built a business that serves those who have served.

Partpic makes finding a replacement part as easy as taking a picture (Jewel Burks and Jason Crain, Atlanta, Georgia) Partpic combines image recognition and machine learning technologies to transform the industrial supply industry, a $570 billion annual market worldwide. Traditionally, finding a replacement part requires a lengthy process of serial number verification and supplier communication.  With Partpic, customers simply snap a picture of the part they want to replace and automatically receive product name, specifications, and supplier information. Partpic is a tech startup in Atlanta that won a Rise of the Rest investment.  Partpic is an Atlanta-based startup that recently closed a $1.5M seed round including investments from Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest and Comcast Ventures. Jewel Burks leads the Partpic team as co-founder and CEO, and additionally serves as an Entrepreneur in Residence at Google. Partpic’s leadership team also includes former Googler, Jason Crain as co-founder/COO.

Go Electric makes power systems that never turn off (Lisa Laughner, Anderson, Indiana)

Lisa Laughner founded Go Electric in 2011 with only three employees and a $3 million contract with the U.S. military. The contract to build a micro grid for a Marine Corps base in Hawaii required integrating several large lithium ion batteries, two large diesel generators, and Go Electric’s micro grid technology. Four years later, their LYNC technology integrates solar, wind, generators, and batteries and optimizes those energy resources to deliver energy services that stabilize the grid and ensure businesses and government organizations have secure, low-cost power 24/7. In May 2015, the company was announced as one of the winners in the RISE:NYC innovative technologies competition.

Bounce Imaging’s tactical camera ball spots danger before soldiers and first responders walk into it (Francisco Aguilar & Carolina Aguilar, Boston, Massachusetts)

Francisco Aguilar came up with the idea for Bounce Imaging’s ball-shaped camera after learning about challenges facing responders during Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010. While there were some fiber-optic cameras that could be used to search through rubble for survivors, the equipment was expensive and required a skilled operator. Aguilar founded Bounce Imaging to develop low-cost, throwable sensor units that provide omnidirectional images of hazardous, unseen spaces and transmits them to a user’s smartphone. The systems can be used by police officers and other first responders to see around a corner, inside a compound, or down a tunnel or sewer system. The company, based at the Harvard Innovation Lab, was named a Gold Winner at MassChallenge, the largest startup accelerator in the world.

MIT team develops device to detect, predict, and prevent falls among seniors (Dina Katabi, Fadel Adib, and Zach Kabelac, Cambridge Massachusetts) Every year, 2.5 million elderly Americans are treated in emergency rooms because of falls, costing over $34 billion annually. Emerald – co-founded by Dina Katabi, an MIT professor and recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, and two of her students, Fadel Adib and Zach Kabelac – uses radio waves to detect seniors’ movements in the home. Using high-precision radio sensors and data analytics, Emerald can detect breathing, heart rate, and changes in gait with such detail that it may soon be able to predict declines in health and increased risk of falling in advance. Because of this innovation, Emerald can empower the elderly to live safely and independently. Fadel manages Emerald’s software development and algorithms and is a co-inventor of the technology.  He was named to Forbes “30 under 30” list for Enterprise Technology. Zach leads Emerald’s hardware design and is a co-inventor of the technology.

Detroit Dirt turns companies’ food waste into garden soil (Pashon Murray, Detroit, Michigan)

As a child, Pashon Murray was inspired by her father’s founding of a waste hauling company. In 2011, Murray founded Detroit Dirt, a business that collects food waste from companies, including General Motors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and the Detroit Zoo, and transforms it into rich soil. Using advanced composting techniques, Detroit Dirt helps companies regenerate their waste into resources that will educate the community, create jobs, and provide gardeners rich, life-bearing soil. Last year, Murray was named a fellow at MIT, where she studies the science of composting and waste reduction.

University of Michigan professor develops the next-generation of low-cost batteries

(Ann Marie Sastry, Ann Arbor, Michigan) With over 25 years of experience and 120 scientific publications, Dr. Ann Marie Sastry is a leading materials science researcher. After spending 17 years as a Professor at University of Michigan, doing research for DARPA, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and other sponsors in government agencies and the private sector, Dr. Sastry decided to found her company.  Sakti is using materials science to develop the next generation of solid state lithium batteries that will power mobile phones, computers, and even cars.

Sparo Labs takes the fear out of asthma with pocket-sized sensor and app (Andrew Brimer and Abby Cohen, St. Louis, Missouri) Sparo Labs was born out of a student group at Washington University in St. Louis and founded by Abigail Cohen and Andrew Brimer. Their product, Wing – a powerful app and pocket-sized sensor that measures lung function – empowers asthma patients to understand, track, and proactively manage their condition. The pair have won 10 national competitions and were the first undergraduate team to win the Center for Integration of Medicine and Innovative Technology (CIMIT) Student Technology Prize for Primary Care.

Pigeonly helps prison inmates stay in touch with families and loved ones (Frederick Hutson, Las Vegas, Nevada) After serving time in prison for a non-violent drug offense, Frederick Hutson knows how important family support is on the path to recovery. He founded Pigeonly to make a positive impact on the lives of inmates by creating solutions for people who want to stay in touch with loved ones in prison. Pigeonly products include Fotopigeon (an easy way to send printed photos by phone) and Telepigeon (a low cost option for phone calls). Though still young, the 25-person company has shipped over 1 million photos and processed over 8 million phone minutes. Pigeonly is a graduate of NewME Accelerator and Y Combinator and has raised $5 million in funding.

Suneris stops bleeding fast with a biotech-based gel (Joe Landolina, Brooklyn, New York)

Suneris is a New York-based biotech company that is focused on commercializing VETIGEL, an algae-derived gel that can stop traumatic bleeding in less than 10 seconds without the need to apply pressure—compared to the five minutes of pressure that current products require. CEO and co-founder Joe Landolina developed the technology while still a student at NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and started Suneris with Isaac Miller in 2010. Suneris, now a company with 22 employees, has released VETIGEL for use by veterinarians within the United States and is working on getting FDA approval to release a product for humans. Suneris has a state of the art manufacturing facility in Brooklyn, New York and is planning on expanding into a much larger FDA-compliant facility to support the production of current and future products.

Waddle helps people discover extraordinary places through friends (Suma Reddy, New York, New York) Waddle is a mobile, friend-to-friend discovery platform to help find the best places to go by using friends’ ratings, reviews and recommendations. Suma Reddy is a co-founder of Waddle, former Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, and an MBA graduate of the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Suma decided to go into tech over a year ago, with a goal to develop a fun and useful product that would allow friends to help each other discover great places to go. She began developing her networks and skills by learning UX Design from New York’s The Flatiron School and becoming an NYC Co-Director of Lesbians Who Tech.

BikeTrak brings GPS-powered tracking and security to bicycles (Kris Akins, Portland, Oregon) After her bicycle was stolen for the second time, Kris Akins was inspired to developi a means for deterring theft and hopefully retrieving stolen bicycles. As a successful entrepreneur with several businesses under her belt, she saw her frustrations as a business opportunity and founded BikeTrak, Inc. BikeTrak’s product is a GPS security device for bicycles providing theft detection and activity tracking. It alerts cyclists if their bike moves unexpectedly and tracks it if stolen. The app will connect to cyclist’s social networks, post to stolen bike registries, provide speed, mileage, and calorie information, and produce reports for police and insurance. 

Onboard Dynamics brings natural gas powered cars home (Rita Hansen, Bend, Oregon)

Rita Hansen has spent more than 30 years managing engineering projects and companies in industries as diverse as steel manufacturing, electronics, telecommunications, and software. Now as CEO and co-founder at Onboard Dynamics, Hansen is working to make natural gas powered cars a reality. The company’s core technology, developed by co-founder Chris Hagen, an assistant professor at Oregon State University-Cascades, modifies a natural gas piston engine to be able to refuel using a low-pressure supply line at a home or business. Using this technology, initially supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), drivers can refuel their natural gas powered cars at their home or business.

Electric vehicle founder brings smart rovers to the farm (Melissa Brandao, Ashland, Oregon)

The 46-year-old founder and chief executive of Ashland, Oregon-based Rogue Rovers is using her business acumen gleaned from her career in technology and electric vehicles to develop an all-electric, all-terrain smart rover for small and specialty farmers. The first product, FarmDogg, is designed to be driven or operate autonomously.  With DoggBone.io, the company’s cloud-based rover platform, farmers can manage a FarmDogg and its data collection capabilities remotely.

Astrobotic Technology shoots for the moon with space robots (John Thornton, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Astrobotic is a lunar logistics company that delivers payloads to the Moon for companies, governments, universities, non-profits, and individuals. The company’s spacecraft accommodates multiple customers on a single flight, offering lunar delivery at an industry-defining low price. Astrobotic is an official partner with NASA through the Lunar CATALYST program and has 21 prior and ongoing NASA contracts. The company has strong commercial partnerships, 8 contracts, and dozens of customer negotiations for upcoming missions. With its partner Carnegie Mellon University, Astrobotic is pursuing the Google Lunar XPRIZE. Astrobotic was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA.

Duolingo combines games and data analytics to make language learning fun and easy (Luis von Ahn and Gina Gotthilf, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) Luis von Ahn is a Guatemalan-born serial entrepreneur and computer scientist.  His previous company, reCAPTCHA, which pioneered online authentication and book digitization tools, was acquired by Google in 2009.  Among many other honors, von Ahn was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (a.k.a. the “genius grant”) in 2006.  His latest company, Duolingo, is a free language-learning and crowdsourced text translation platform with over 100 million users worldwide.  In 2013, Apple chose Duolingo as its iPhone App of the Year, the first time this honor was awarded to an educational application.

Biotech entrepreneur founds state-of-the-art laboratory in Puerto Rico (Ignacio “Nacho” Pino Mayaguez, Puerto Rico) After spending 10 years as a successful veterinarian, Ignacio “Nacho” Pino decided to dedicate himself to work that could bring state-of-the-art biotechnology research to his home of Puerto Rico. His company, CDI Laboratories, produces research-grade protein and antibody products that support scientific research on cancer, autoimmunity, and infectious diseases. Recently, CDI Labs was selected as part of a research consortium – including the University of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust – funded by the National Institutes of Health to perform research on cancer, autoimmunity, and infectious diseases.

Smart teddy bear helps kids build healthy habits (Aaron Horowitz and Hannah Chung, Providence, Rhode Island) Jerry the bear is a smart stuffed animal with educational apps that help kids build healthy behaviors centered on nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness. By combining educational storytelling apps and a playful, robotic physical companion, Jerry helps kids lead healthier, happier, and more productive lives. Additional modules customize Jerry to provide specific education for chronic illnesses like type 1 diabetes. Jerry was used by 4 percent of all children newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014 and is available at 25 percent of pediatric endocrinologist offices. Jerry is built by Sproutel, a company founded by Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz. Aaron and Hannah can both empathize with children who have type 1 diabetes. In his youth, Aaron was diagnosed with human growth hormone deficiency, a condition which also requires self-administered injections. Several members of Hannah’s father’s family have Type 2 diabetes. Hannah was previously named as one of Inc. Magazine’s “15 Women to Watch in Tech,” and co-founded of Design for America.

Charleston-based Bidr uses tech to help nonprofits raise money (Mindy Taylor, Charleston, South Carolina) Bidr is an online platform that helps reinvent fundraising and make nonprofit events more profitable for causes and campaigns. Fundraisers use Bidr to sell event tickets, host online silent auctions, sell raffle tickets and receive donations, all from a donor’s mobile device. In May of 2015, Bidr won a Rise of the Rest pitch competition and earned a $100,000 investment from Revolution CEO Steve Case. In June 2015, Bidr partnered with the city of Charleston to provide their text to donate platform, helping to raise money for the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund in the wake of the recent tragedy. All proceeds went to pay for funerals and other related expenses.  

Air Force veteran learns tech skills at a coding bootcamp that he used to launch venture that helps veterans more successfully transition back into civilian life (Jerome Hardaway, Memphis, Tennessee) Jerome Hardaway is a Memphis native and Air Force veteran who served three tours of duty in Afghanistan and three in Iraq. Afterwards, he completed a program in computer software and media applications at a fast-track tech training program called General Assembly that has made commitments as a part of the TechHire initiative. The skills he gained at GA allowed him to launch FRAGO – named after the military term for “fragmentary order,” or a change in the mission plan when on combat detail – a startup non-profit that helps U.S. military veterans transition back into civilian life. FRAGO trains veterans in programming skills to help them succeed in the digital economy. He completed a Computer Software and Media Applications course at General Assembly. 

Memphis teen turns passion for bowties into a budding fashion business (Moziah Bridges, Memphis, Tennessee) Moziah Bridges started his business, Mo’s Bows, when he was 9 years old. Four years later, Bridges now has five staff members, appeared on the TV show Shark Tank, and was featured in O magazine and Vogue. Mo’s Bows was born of Moziah’s love for bow ties and his dissatisfaction with the selection available for kids his age. Even worse than the poor color selection, they were all clip-ons. His grandmother taught him to sew by hand and to use a sewing machine, using scraps to create his favorite neckwear. Today, each bow tie is still sewn from scratch, though Bridges has expanded from vintage materials to tweeds and ginghams, with a custom line of satins and silk. His bow ties are available online, and in boutiques throughout Kentucky, Georgia, and Tennessee.

Spot On Sciences brings lab-quality blood tests to individuals at home and soldiers in the field (Jeanette Hill, Austin, Texas) Dr. Jeanette Hill spent 20 years conducting and managing biotech research before striking out to found Spot On Sciences. The company’s signature product, HemaSpot, offers simplified remote blood collection by finger stick and sample shipment by mail, reducing the need for needles and trips to the lab. HemaSpot has earned grants from DARPA and the National Institutes of Health.  Spot On Sciences has announced a collaboration with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to support a study for detecting infectious pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and mosquito-borne infections such as dengue, West Nile and chikungunya virus in deployed troops. 

Creating the 401(k) for student loans (Tony Aguilar, Austin Texas)

After graduating from college with over $100,000 in student loan debt and struggling to understand his options, Tony Aguilar created Student Loan Genius to give students the benefits he wishes he had. Student Loan Genius allows companies to offer a benefit that optimizes employees’ student debt and provide a matching contribution to help them become debt-free faster.

Husband and wife duo develop technology to help libraries boost kids’ summer reading

(Felix Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd-Bookey, Arlington, Virginia) Entrepreneurs and husband-and wife-team Felix Lloyd and Jordan Lloyd Bookey founded Zoobean to help libraries use technology to better serve their communities. Their latest product, Beanstack, provides families with learning tips, tools to log reading sessions, book and app recommendations and special badges tied to local library programs and goals.  Jordan is the former Head of Google’s K-12 Education Outreach team. Felix is a serial entrepreneur whose first venture, MoneyIsland was acquired by BancVue.

Former Rwandan refugee uses big data to help U.S. companies sell globally (William Hakizimana and Austin Grandt, Madison, Wisconsin) William Hakizimana, a Rwandan native, was forced to flee his homeland on foot and live in regugee camps before moving to the United States with his family as a teenager. Now, as the CTO and Chief Data Scientist at Export Abroad, Hakizimana helps U.S. manufacturers compete globally.  The company’s software platform helps companies navigate international trade and increase sales by providing global market research, curated leads, and customer management tools.

In addition to those exhibiting, entrepreneurs being honored and invited to the White House Demo Day include:

  • Douglas Hutchings,  Picasolar, Fayetteville, Arkansas
  • Albrey Brown, Telegraph Academy, Oakland, California
  • Kimberly Bryant, Black Girls Code, San Francisco, California
  • Joel Rojo, Code 2040, San Francisco, California
  • Jerry Nemorin, LendStreet, Sunnyvale, California
  • Jennifer Ngai & Shizu Okusa, Jrink Juicery, Washington, District of Columbia
  • Patrick Dowd, Millennial Trains Project, Washington, District of Columbia
  • Michael Goldstein,  SwitchPitch, Washington, District of Columbia
  • Yael Krigman, Baked by Yael, Washington, District of Columbia
  • Riana Lynn & Andrew Hill, FoodTrace, Chicago, Illinois
  • Todd Connor, Bunker Labs, Chicago, Illinois
  • Earl Robinson, New Orleans Startup Fund & PowerMovesNOLA, New Orleans, Louisana
  • Jeehy Yun, RedShred, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Pat Murphy, Remote Energy, Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Kathryn Minshew & Alex Cavoulacos, The Muse, New York, New York
  • Rodney Williams, LISNR, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Brit Fitzpatrick, Mentorme, Memphis, Tennessee


Remarks by the President at the Young African Leaders Initiative ...

Omni Shoreham Hotel
Washington, D.C. 

11:15 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, hello, everybody!  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE:  Happy birthday to you!  Happy birthday to you!  Happy birthday, Mr. President, happy birthday to you!  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Everybody sit down.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)  Well, this is a good crowd here!  (Applause.)  First of all, can everybody please give Grace another big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Not only does she do incredibly inspiring work in Nigeria, but I have to say, following Grace is a little bit like following Michelle.  (Laughter.)  She’s so good that you kind of feel bad when you’re walking out, because you’re thinking, I’m not going to be that good.  (Laughter.)  But she’s just one example of the incredible talent that’s in this room.  

And to all of you, I know that you’ve been here in the United States for just a few weeks, but let me say on behalf of the American people, welcome to the United States.  We are thrilled to have you here.  (Applause.)   

And your visit comes at a perfect time, because, yes, it’s soon my birthday and that’s a very important thing.  (Laughter.) But that’s not the main reason it’s a perfect time.  The main reason is because, as many of you know, I just returned from Africa.  And it was my fourth trip to sub-Saharan Africa, more than any other U.S. President.  And I was proud to be the first U.S. President to visit Kenya, — (applause) — the first to visit Ethiopia, — (applause) — the first to address the African Union, which was a great honor.  (Applause.)

And the reason I’ve devoted so much energy to our work with the continent is, as I said last week, even as Africa continues to confront many challenges, Africa is on the move.  It’s one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers.  With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity.  The continent has achieved historic gains in health, from fighting HIV/AIDS to making childbirth safer for women and babies.  Millions have been lifted from extreme poverty.  So this is extraordinary progress.    

And young people like you are driving so much of this progress — because Africa is the youngest continent.  I saw the power of youth on my trip.  In Kenya, Richard Ruto Todosia helped build Yes Youth Can, one of the county’s most prominent civil society groups, with over one million members.  At the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, Shadi Sabeh spoke about how he started Brilliant Footsteps Academy in Nigeria, which uses education to fight religious extremism and provide more opportunities for Muslim youth.  I met Judith Owigar, an entrepreneur who co-founded a nonprofit that trains young women living in the slums of Nairobi in computer programming and graphic design — and then helps place them in tech jobs. 

So I saw the talent of young people all across the continent.  And as President, I want to make sure that even as we’re working with governments, we’re also helping to empower young Africans like all of you.  And that’s why I launched YALI  — Young African Leaders Initiative — (applause) — to help you access the resources and the training and the networks that you need to become the next generation of leaders in all areas — in civil society, in business, in government.  

And the response has been overwhelming.  So far, more than 140,000 young people across Africa have joined our YALI network  — so young Africans with new ideas can connect with each other, and collaborate and work together to put their plans into action. And I want to welcome all of the YALI network members across Africa who are watching this town hall today.  I’m proud of all of you.  I’m proud that we’ve made so much progress together, after just a few years.  (Applause.)  

And last year, I said we’d launch a new set of tools for our YALI network.  So today, we’ve got more than 30 online lessons available on everything from public speaking to how to write a business plan, mentoring, new ways to network across Africa, around the world, new training sessions, meetings with experts on how to launch a startup.  And we’re launching three new online Mandela Washington Fellowship Institute courses so that all members of the YALI network can access some of the great ideas that you’ve been sharing. 

Last year, I said that we would create YALI Regional Leadership Centers across Africa to provide skills, networks, and opportunities to even more young African leaders.  And in Kenya, I had a chance to visit the Regional Leadership Center in Nairobi.  Just this morning, we opened a new center in Accra.  And two more will be opened by the end of the year — in Pretoria and in Dakar.  (Applause.)    

Last year, I said we would do even more to support young entrepreneurs with grants to help you start a business or nonprofit, and with new training for thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs in small towns and rural areas.  So at the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, I announced that we secured more than $1 billion in new commitments from banks and philanthropists to support emerging entrepreneurs around the world, including in Africa — with half the money going to support women and young people.  (Applause.)  

And last year, I welcomed our first class of Mandela Fellows.  This year, the response was overwhelming again — nearly 30,000 applied.  And today I’m honored to welcome you, the second Mandela Washington Fellows class.  We’re on track to double the Mandela Washington Fellowship program to 1,000 fellows by next year.  (Applause.)    

And I know you’ve been busy.  Over the past few weeks, at schools and businesses all across America, you’ve been taking courses, developing the skills you’ll need to make your ideas a reality, so that you’re able to continue the great work that you’re already doing, but take it to the next level. 

That’s what Brian Bwembya of Zambia plans to do.  Where’s Brian?  Where is he?  (Applause.)  There he is right there.  So Brian uses music to advocate against things like gender-based violence and to educate youth on HIV/AIDS.  (Applause.)  So while in the U.S., he’s learned about our health care system, met the founder of an American HIV/AIDS organization, and now he plans to start a record label for music about social change.  So, Brian, we’re proud to be your partner.  (Applause.)  

Or we’ve got Kadijah Diallo of Guinea.  Where is Kadijah?  (Applause.)  There she is.  So Kadijah helped lead UNICEF’s media campaign to stop the spread of Ebola.  And with the management skills that she gained at Wagner College, she wants to work on improving the lives of women and girls back home in Guinea.  So we are proud to be your partner.  (Applause.) 

Or we’ve got Jamila Mayanja of Uganda.  Are you posing?  (Laughter.)  She’s posing.  Jamila is not a fashion model — that’s not — (laughter) — she started a door-to-door laundry company to employ more youth and teach them entrepreneurial skills.  And she hopes to take what she learned during her time at Dartmouth University to meet her goal of getting 1,000 youth to work in or run their own business.  So we’re proud to be your partner, Jamila.  (Applause.)  
So that’s just a sampling of the incredible projects that are being done by fellows all across Africa.  So this program is going to help all of you make a real difference back home.  

But Fatou Ba Ndiour from Senegal — (applause) — where’s Fatou?  So Fatou wrote me a letter and she said, if the real value of YALI is for young people to learn from others, then maybe we should start sending some young Americans to Africa also.  (Applause.)  And she made the point, not just to help poor communities as they usually do, “but to learn from other societies, with humility” — which I thought is absolutely true.  
So I have good news, Fatou.  From now on, YALI will give Americans an opportunity.  (Applause.)  Next summer, up to 80 young American leaders will join YALI and go to Africa to learn from you and your countries.  (Applause.)  And you guys are going to have to look after them when they’re there.  (Laughter.)  Show them good places — but not to have too much fun.  (Laughter.)  They need to be doing some work while they’re there.

So these connections and partnerships and friendships, they forge an understanding that brings our peoples closer together.  After six weeks here, some of you are now officially Texas Longhorns or Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  (Applause.)  You’ve shared African cooking with your American friends, but you’ve also had a burger and a hotdog at Fourth of July celebrations.  (Laughter.)  I’m told many of you went bowling for the first time.


THE PRESIDENT:  I hear it didn’t go that well.  (Laughter.) There were a few strikes.  By the way, there was at least one marriage that came out of last year’s class.  (Applause.)   So who knows what might happen here.  (Laughter.)  

So as your time in America comes to a close, I want you to remember this is really just the beginning.  We just started this.  And the truth is that our greatest challenges — whether it’s inclusive development, or confronting terrorism, dealing with conflict, climate change, increasing women’s rights, children’s rights — these are bigger than any one nation or even one continent.  

Our hope is, is that 10, 15, 20 years from now, when you’ve all gone on to be ministers in government, or leaders in business, or pioneers of social change, that you’ll still be connecting with each other, that you’ll still be learning from each other, and that together, you’ll be reaching back and helping the next generation — that you’ll not only be making a difference in your own countries, but you’ll be the foundation of a new generation of global leadership, a generation that’s going to be working together across borders to make the world safer and more prosperous and more peaceful and more just.  That’s my hope for you.

We’ve brought you here because we benefit from your leadership, but we’re counting on you to work together to make sure that you’re also reaching back to those who are going to be coming behind you.  Couldn’t be prouder of you.

So with that, let me take some questions, all right?  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  

All right.  So here are the — I think you’ve been told how this works, but I’m going to just repeat it.  I’m just going to call on as many people as possible.  When I call on you, introduce yourself, tell me what country you’re from.  Make your question relatively short — (laughter) — so that we can get as many questions in as possible.  And I’m going to go boy, girl, boy, girl — to make sure that it’s fair.  All right?  Okay.  So let me see who I’m going to start off with.  This is all such a good-looking group.  I’m going to start with this young lady right here.  Right here.  Right in the middle.  Yes, there you go — with the African earrings.  Very appropriate.

Q    I’m from Kenya.


Q    Mzuri sana.  Yes.  And my question is, I’m curious how you keep the balance in terms of your background as an African American and the kind of struggles you’ve had to get over to get here — and being to married Michelle Obama — she’s powerful and amazing — and as a father, as a husband.  But you seem to not let that interfere with your work, and you’ve been effective.  So how do you keep the balance?  

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I wouldn’t be who I was without Michelle.  So she’s my partner.  (Applause.)  That’s true professionally, but that’s true in terms of my character and who I am.  One of the things I’m very proud of is the fact that I married someone who is strong, and talented, and opinionated, and my equal.  And part of the reason why that’s so important to me is because she’s the role model now for my daughters.  And so Malia and Sasha, they have expectations of being strong and talented, and being treated as an equal by their partners as they get older — much older.  (Laughter.)  

The balance — I’ve written about this.  The balance isn’t always perfect.  I think one of the things that my generation, but now even more your generation, has to manage is, if you have two people working in the house, outside the home, how do you manage that in a way that we’re both good parents, we’re both able to succeed in our work.  And what Michelle and I found was that we had to recognize that at any given point in our careers, one person might sacrifice a little bit — maybe this was a time that she really had to focus on something, and so I had to cover for her more.  There were times where I was able to do something and she had to handle things more.

Now, I’m not suggesting that it’s been completely equal, because I’m the first one to acknowledge that she’s probably made more sacrifices, given the nature of a political career, than I have.  But what I’ve learned from her is that if she doesn’t feel respected and fulfilled, then I’m going to end up being less successful, ultimately.  And that’s something that I think that men in Africa, in particular — men everywhere — (laughter) — but men in Africa — I’ve spoken about this a lot.  The best measure of how a country does economically in terms of development is how does it treat its women.  (Applause.)  

And as I said in a speech — a couple of the speeches that I gave while I was in Kenya and Ethiopia — if you’re mistreating your women, then you’re just holding yourself back, you’re holding yourself down.  You may have some false sense of importance, but ultimately you don’t benefit if women are being discriminated against, because that means when they’re working, your family is going to have less income.  If they’re not educated, that means your children are less likely to be well educated, because, typically, the mother is the first educator of a child.  So if they see you disrespecting your wife, then what lesson is your — not just your girls, but what lessons are your sons learning from you?  

And so this is something that I really think everybody, especially the young generation of African men, have to learn and internalize.  And I want to see more men creating peer pressure among themselves.  If you see a friend of yours, a classmate, one of your buddies abusing a woman, you have to say something.  You have to ostracize them and say that’s not acceptable.  Because, ultimately, this is not just an issue of laws — although here in the United States we’re still fighting for equal pay for equal work; we’re still fighting to make sure that women have the same opportunities as men — but it’s also a matter of culture and what our expectations are.  And your generation is going to have to change expectations.  

You do not lift yourself up by holding somebody else down.  And that’s especially true within your own family and the people that you’re closest to.  (Applause.) 

All right.  That young men right there, in the striped shirt.  Yes, you.  

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I am from Rwanda.  (Applause.)    

THE PRESIDENT:  You have a little cheering section here.  (Laughter.)  Got the flags.

Q    Mr. President, there is a big problem of climate change, and research has showed that Africa will be the most vulnerable continent to climate change in the next decades.  Africa is the continent which is responsible to climate change mitigation, and it is reducing the greenhouse gases and the global warming.  And I saw that Africa was the last continent to get the funding for climate change mitigation and adaptation.  So my question is to ask you what is the plan of the United States of America to empower Africa so that our community can adapt themselves to the climate change in the next future?  Thank you. (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, this generation has to understand that climate change is going to be one of the critical issues that you face.  Now, oftentimes you’ll hear people say, well, environmental issues, climate change, we don’t have time to worry about that right now because we have much more urgent issues — we have to educate our children, we have to feed people, we have to develop — maybe later we can worry about environmental issues — which I understand why a lot of African countries and poorer countries in Asia or Latin America or other places would say that, because historically, that’s basically what the United States and developed countries did.  

The United States used to be terribly polluted.  If you went to Los Angeles, you couldn’t — it was like Beijing is now.  It was very hard to breathe if you ran outside.  You had lakes and rivers that were so polluted that one of them caught fire.  (Laughter.)  That’s serious; that’s some pollution there.  The same is true in London when London was first developing during the Industrial Revolution, because of all the coal that was being burned, and the soot.  

Here’s the problem.  Whether it’s fair or not, the issue of climate change is not like traditional environmental issues in the sense that’s it’s just isolated in one area.  Global climate change will affect everybody.  And because the changes could be so severe, frankly, the countries that are most likely to be adversely affected are the poorer countries because they have less margin for error.

So if you have changing weather patterns in, let’s say, the Indian Subcontinent, and the monsoon rains shift, suddenly you could have millions of people whose crops completely fail.  Well, the same is true in Africa — if rain patterns and drought starts changing, subsistence farmers are completely vulnerable.  If you are in coastal communities, and the oceans begin to rise, millions of people could be displaced.

So this is something that everybody is going to have to take seriously.  Now, what we’re going to be doing is, here in the United States, we are initiating some of the most aggressive action to start reducing the emission of carbon that produces climate change.  There’s going to be a Paris conference later this year in which we’re organizing China and other countries that are big carbon emitters to participate, and set targets for reduction of carbon pollution.

Now, Africa, per capita, doesn’t produce that much carbon.  So some African countries have said, well, why should we have to do anything?  Well, the answer is, is that you have to project where you’re going to be 20 years from now or 30 years from now. If you get locked in now in, for example, the way you producing energy that’s producing a lot of carbon, given the youth of Africa and its rising population, you could end up being the major carbon emitter if you don’t take plans now.

So what we’re saying is, learn from our mistakes and find new, sustainable ways of generating energy that don’t produce carbon.  

When I was in Nairobi, I highlighted the work we’re doing with something called Power Africa, which has generated billions of dollars with the goal of electrification throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  But part of what we’re trying to encourage countries to do is don’t automatically take the old models; think about new models of energy production, and try to leapfrog over the old models.

So, for example, with solar energy, we were looking at solar panels that you could send into rural areas, put on the roof of a hut, and for the same price per day that people are purchasing kerosene, they could have a small — solar panels and pack that generates light and provides what they need.  And in fact, it will pay for itself in a year, and then they’ll save money after that.  

And so, in the same way that you’ve seen banking and financial transactions off smartphones, cellphones, leapfrogging some of the old ways of doing business in advanced countries, the same has to be true for energy.  And we want to encourage new models.  We are going to be providing — the United States and other wealthier countries are going to be providing billions of dollars in money for adaptation and mitigation.  But what’s more urgent is how do we create the energy that’s needed for Africa’s growth and development in a way that does not make the problem worse, but instead makes the problem better.

All right?  (Applause.)  Okay, this young lady right here.  You’ve got the mic coming.

Q    Hello.  I’m from Mauritania and I’m 23 years old.  So my question is simple:  You, as a President, and you as a citizen — a U.S. citizen, will you, after leaving the White House, keep up this program?  Because we still need it.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  It is a simple question, and I’ve got a simple answer:  Yes.  (Applause.)  Now, here’s what we’re going to try to do.  We want to institutionalize the program so that the next President and future Presidents and the United States government continue to sustain the program.  (Applause.)  So that’s going to be important.

And since I still have this job for the next 18 months, I haven’t been completely focused on what I’m going to do afterwards.  (Laughter.)  The first thing I’m probably going to do is I’m going to catch up on my sleep.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to do that for a couple months.  (Laughter.)  But I can guarantee you that one of the things I’m interested in doing when I leave office is to continue to create these platforms for young leadership across the globe, to network, get relationships, to work together, to learn with each other.  (Applause.)  

And by the way, it’s not just in Africa.  So we’ve set up a young leaders program in Asia.  We’re doing the same thing in Latin America.  Because the goal is, eventually I want not only for there to be a network of thousands of young African leaders who know each other across borders, are sharing best practices, sharing ideas, but I also want you to know young leaders in Indonesia, or young leaders in Chile, or young leaders around the globe.  

Because I said before, ultimately you’re going to be global leaders, not just leaders in your own country.  It begins in your own countries where you can make your mark, but one of the powerful things about technology and the Internet right now is you can learn and forge relationships and learn best practices from everyplace.  So if you’re an advocate for women’s rights, and you’re doing great work in Nigeria, it may be that somebody in Burma can, on the Internet, see how you organized your campaign and how you were able to finance it and what you were able to accomplish, and suddenly what you’ve done in one country becomes a model for action all across the world.

So this is going to be a top priority of mine.  I will definitely continue to be involved in that.  All right?  (Applause.)  

Let’s see, I’ve got to call on a man now.  Let’s see.  Let’s see.  I’m going to call on this guy right there.  Yes, you right there — just because I like that hat.  (Laughter.)  That’s a sharp-looking hat right there.  

Q    I come from Madagascar.  

THE PRESIDENT:  There you go.

Q    We Madagascar fellows are involved in the environmental entrepreneurship.  So what is the commitment of the United States towards young entrepreneurship and climate change?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as I said before, we are pledging — we’ve got a billion dollars for entrepreneurship; half of it we are going to direct towards women entrepreneurs and young people who are entrepreneurs, because they’ve been underrepresented in terms of access to capital.  And as I mentioned to the young man earlier, the opportunities for entrepreneurship related to clean energy, related to conservation — which oftentimes, in a place like Madagascar, involves tourism and ecotourism — there’s huge potential there if it’s done properly.

So the key is, in some cases, just the access to financing. But part of what you’ve learned, hopefully, with YALI is part of it is also having a well-thought-out plan.  Now, not everybody can afford to go to a fancy business school and graduate and have all the credentials, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a good idea.  And one of the things that we’re trying to do, particularly through online learning, is to create some of the basic concepts for how a business or a nonprofit can get started, how it can be properly managed, how you can do the accounting in a way that’s efficient.  We want to make sure that we are a continuing partner for you as you start your business and you learn.

And this is where these regional networks that we’re setting up is also useful, because not only will we have online learning but these regional hubs, initially in four regions of Africa, allow you to continue to network and access through the U.S. embassy, or the chambers of commerce, or private sector participants who are partnering with us, so that you can have hands-on mentoring and learning as you are developing your business plans, and as you’re trying to move forward.

The one thing, for those of you who are entrepreneurs or aspiring entrepreneurs, to remember is all around the world, even in the United States, not every idea succeeds.  So if you want to be an entrepreneur and start a business, you have to believe with all your heart that you’re going to succeed, but then when — and if — one of the businesses fails, you’ve got to be able to get up, dust yourself off, figure out what you’ve learned, and then start another business.  And eventually, it’s from continually refining your ideas and exploring what works and understanding what your market is and what consumers are looking for, that eventually, you have a chance to succeed.  

Okay.  It’s a young woman’s turn now.  Well, she’s just dancing over here, so we’ll have to call on her.  (Laughter.)  That doesn’t mean, by the way, everybody should dance.  (Laughter.)  I just wanted to point that out.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.  I’m from Cameroon.  And I would like to find out if you will support Africa’s condition for permanency at the U.N. Security Council.  Thank you.  (Applause.) 

THE PRESIDENT:  So the Security Council was formed after World War II, and obviously the world and the balance of power around the world looked very different in 1945, 1946, ’47 than it does in 2015, ’16 and ’17.  So the United States is supportive in concept of modifications to the structure of the United Nations Security Council.  I will be honest with you — how that happens, and how you balance all the equities is complicated.  As a matter of principle, I would think that there should at least be one representative from the African continent on the Security Council, along with representatives from the other regions of the world and some of the other powers that have emerged.  

I will tell you that — because, for example, Latin America does not have a country that’s represented — it does get complicated, because you have to figure out how — let me put it this way.  Everybody probably thinks they should be on it.  And so even in Africa, if you started saying, okay, let’s say we should have an African — is it South Africa?  Is it Nigeria?  Is it — see?  (Laughter.)  Uganda?  See?  Suddenly everybody was thinking, well, why not me?  The same is true in — Japan considers itself, as one of the largest economies in the world, suitable.  Brazil thinks it should be on.  India, the world’s largest democracy.

So we’re going to have to design a process whereby all these various legitimate arguments are sorted through.  But what I very much believe is that for the United Nations Security Council to be effective, it has to be more representative of all the various trend lines that have occurred over the last several decades.

One thing I will say, though, about the United Nations — everybody wants a seat at the table, but sometimes people don’t want the responsibilities of having a seat at the table.  And that’s happening even now.  And the one thing I’ve learned, both in my personal life and in my political life, is that if you want more authority, then you also have to be more responsible.  You can’t wear the crown if you can’t bear the cross.  

And oftentimes, in the United Nations — which I’m very committed to, and the agencies there do a lot of really critical important work — but when it comes to, okay, who’s going to actually step up and contribute to peacekeeping, who’s going to actually write a check when it comes to making sure that we’re dealing with the Ebola crisis, who’s going to show leadership in tackling climate change — are you willing to speak out on issues even when it contradicts your own interests, or when it’s politically hard, or when it’s uncomfortable — if you’re not willing to do those things, this is not just something where, okay, I got a membership key to the club and now I’m just going to show off how important I am.  And you see that sometimes.  This happens — and sometimes it happens at our own agencies.  

On human rights, when I was in Kenya, I said that it’s not enough for the United States always to be the heavy who has to point out that it’s unsuitable for leaders to ignore their constitution and try to cling on to power.  Their neighbors have to speak up as well, even if it’s uncomfortable.  (Applause.)  

So my attitude is, if you want to participate then you have to recognize that you have broader responsibilities.  And that’s something that the United States, by the way, for all our occasional mistakes or flaws, or our policies not perfect all the time, the one thing we do try to be is responsible.  If there’s an earthquake or a tornado or a hurricane somewhere, we’re there. We’re stepping up.  When Ebola happened, we stepped up, even when other people were kind of looking around and trying to figure out, well, I don’t know, what should we do?

And that is part of leadership.  That’s true, by the way, for you individually as well.  You have to be willing to take some risks and do some hard things in order to be a leader.  A leader is not just a name, a title, and privileges and perks.  

Let’s see, I think it’s a gentleman’s turn, isn’t it?  All right.  This guy looks sharp, right here in the corner.  I mean, that’s a serious-looking coat.  Look at that.  (Applause.)  That’s a good-looking coat.  Don’t worry, I’ll call on somebody who’s just wearing a suit at some point.  (Laughter.)

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m from Cameroon.  So we are very grateful for the American leadership in our fight against violent extremism and the military response.  So my question is, what kind of engagement — what kind of support we can expect from you in building resilient communities, especially along the Sahel, where we are grappling with those issues?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, this is something that’s very important.  Look, the sources of violence around the world are multiple.  And it’s important for us to recognize that, sadly, the human race has found excuses to kill each other for all sorts of reasons.  In the continent of Africa, oftentimes it’s been along ethnic and tribal lines.  It has nothing to do with religion; it has to do with you speak a slightly different language than me, or you look just a little bit different.  In Northern Ireland it was religious.  In other places, it just has to do with trying to gain power, or a majority group trying to impose its will on a minority group.  So there are all kinds of reasons for violence.  

But one of the phenomena that we are now seeing is a very specific promotion of violent extremism that oftentimes is twisting and distorting and, I think, ultimately, defying the edicts of one of the world’s greatest religions — Islam.  And it’s being exported and turbocharged through social media, and groups like al-Shabaab and ISIL and Boko Haram.  And the question is, how do we fight back against those ideologies in a way that allows us still to be true to the values of peace and tolerance and due process and rule of law.  

So the United States is obviously committed to this fight against terrorism.  And we are working with countries and partnering with countries all around the world to go after whether it’s al Qaeda, Boko Haram.  But what we’ve also said is in order to defeat these extremist ideologies, it can’t just be military, police and security.  It has to be reaching into communities that feel marginalized and making sure that they feel that they’re heard; making sure that the young people in those communities have opportunity.

And that’s why it’s so important to partner with civil society organizations in countries throughout Africa and around the world who can reach young people before ISIL reaches them, before al Shabaab reaches them, and inoculate them from the notion that somehow the solution to their alienation or the source of future opportunity for them is to go kill people.

And that’s why, when I was in Kenya, for example, and I did a town hall meeting there, I emphasized what I had said to President Kenyata — be a partner with the civil society groups. (Applause.)   Because too often, there’s a tendency — because what the extremist groups want to do is they want to divide.  That’s what terrorism is all about.  The notion is that you scare societies, further polarizes them.  The government reacts by further discriminating against a particular group.  That group then feels it has no political outlet peacefully to deal with their grievances.  And that then — that suppression can oftentimes accelerate even more extremism.  

And that’s why reaching out to civil society groups, clergy, and listening and asking, okay, what is it that we need to do in order to make sure that young people feel that they can succeed? What is it that we need to do to make sure that they feel that they’re fully a part of this country and are full citizens, and have full rights?  How do we do that?  Bringing them into plan and design messages and campaigns that embrace the diversity of these countries — those are the things that are so important to do.  

We still have to gain intelligence and engage in effective military and police campaigns to eradicate those who are so brainwashed that all you can do is incapacitate them.  But the question is constantly, how do we make sure that the recruitment of young people into these terrorist organizations, how do we cut off that flow?  And that requires more than just military efforts.  (Applause.)  

All right.  This young lady right here.  Yes, right here in the green and red.  Yes, you.  No, no, no right here.  Go ahead. No, no, no, right here in front.  Yes, you.  Yes, go ahead.  

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m from Kenya.  And I’m speaking on behalf of my brothers and sisters with albinism from Africa.  As you may know, Mr. President, persons with albinism in Africa are being killed and their body parts harvested for ritual purposes.  My request to you is to raise this issue with the heads of states from African countries to bring these atrocities to an end, for the benefit of for us in this room, and our brothers and sisters back in Africa.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, good.  Thank you.  Well, can I just say the notion that any African would discriminate against somebody because of the color of their skin, after what black people around the world have gone through, is crazy.  (Applause.) It is infuriating and I have no patience for it.  

When I was in Africa, I said there are important traditions and folkways that need to be respected — that’s part of who each culture is, each country is.  But there’s also just foolish traditions — (applause) — and old ways of doing business that are based in ignorance.  And they need to stop.  And the idea that a society would visit violence on people because of pigmentation, that’s not a tradition that is worth preserving.  That’s tomfoolery.  That’s craziness.  It’s cruel. 

The same is true with practices like genital mutilation.  That just has to stop.  (Applause.)  You don’t do violence to young girls just because your great-grandfather or — because there’s no reason for it other than to suppress woman.  That’s the rationale.  That’s what it’s based on.  Bride abduction — bad tradition.  End it.  Beating women — not a good tradition.  (Applause.)  I don’t care that that used to be how things were done.  

Societies evolve based on new understandings and new science and new appreciation of who we are.  And so we can preserve great traditions — music, food, dance, language, art — but if there’s a tradition anywhere in Africa, or here in the United States, or anywhere in the world that involves treating people differently because you’re scared of them, or because you’re ignorant about them, or because you want to feel superior to them, it’s a bad tradition.  And you have to challenge it.  And you can’t accept excuses for it.

Grace was up here — you heard the power of Grace’s talking. Now, traditionally, people with disabilities are treated differently because people are ignorant.  And when — here in the United States, we passed the Americans Against With Disabilities Act.  And that opened up more opportunities, and suddenly there are ramps so people can access it, and there are computers and new technologies so that people who maybe couldn’t communicate before can communicate.  And it turns out there’s all this talent and brilliance, and people can do these things.  Well, then people’s attitudes have to change, and the societies have to change.  And that’s why young people are so important in changing attitudes.  

The same, by the way, is true for sexual orientation. (Applause.)  I spoke about this in Africa, and everybody is like, oh, oh, we don’t want to hear that.  (Laughter.)  But the truth of the matter is, is that if you’re treating people differently just because of who they love and who they are, then there’s a connection between that mindset and the mindset that led to racism, and the mindset that leads to ethnic conflict.  (Applause.)  It means that you’re not able to see somebody else as a human being.  

And so you can’t, on the one hand, complain when somebody else does that to you, and then you’re doing it to somebody else. You can’t do it.  There’s got to be some consistency to how you think about these issues.  And that’s going to be up to young people — because old people get stuck in their ways.  (Laughter.)  They do.  They do.  And that’s true here in the United States.  

The truth of the matter is, is that when I started running for President, everybody said a black guy names Barack Obama, he’s not going to win the presidency of the United States.  (Laughter.)  But what I was banking on was the fact that with all the problems that still exist in the United States around racial attitudes, et cetera, things have changed, and young people and new generations had suddenly understood that, in Dr. King’s words, you have to be judged not by the color of your skin, but by the contents of your character.  

And that doesn’t mean that everything suddenly is perfect.  It just means that, young people, you can lead the way and set a good example.  But it requires some courage, because the old thinking, people will push back at you.  And if you don’t have the convictions and the courage to be able to stand up for what you think is right, then cruelty will perpetuate itself.  

So you guys are on the spot.  If there’s one thing I want YALI leaders to come out with is that notion of you are strong by taking care of the people who are vulnerable, by looking after the minority, looking after the disabled, looking after the vulnerable.  You’re not strong by putting people down; you’re strong by lifting them up.  (Applause.)  That’s the measure of a leader.

All right, how much time do we got?  I’ve only got time for one more question.  Now, first of all, the women — you’ve to put your hands down because I just asked a woman.  (Laughter.)  So it’s got to be a guy.  And I promised I’d ask a guy in a suit.  (Laughter.)  I’m just going to ask this guy right here.  (Applause.)  Look at him, he’s all buttoning up.  He looks very sharp.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s my boy!  (Laughter.)    

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’m from Nigeria.  Thank you.  I want to say we appreciate all the great work that the United States is doing with Nigeria and many other African countries, especially as it concerns infrastructure development policies and all of those.  But I’m of the opinion that if we do not make investment in education more than any other sector of the economy, then we are not building a sustainable partnership. (Applause.)  And I’m saying that with respect to the fact that we are all of the intellectual dream that Africa is experiencing.  Due to the fact the grass seemed green on this side and then the United States attracts so many intellectuals, we should have stayed to development and grown these programs.

For example, recently, when you were in Kenya, you launched a project around power and energy.  I’m of the opinion that if that program is going to be successful and sustainable, then all of those programs should include the partnership of universities. (Applause.)  Because through that, we can build the capacity of universities, and then those countries can go around in other African countries replicating that.  So in that case, we can control the dream that is moving from Africa to the West, or to any other part of the country.  (Applause.)  

So I want to ask, what is the United States doing to control this intellectual dream to the Western world?  And what are you doing to increase, more than others, the investment in education so that our partnership and development can be truly sustainable? Thank you.  (Applause.)  

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, good.  That was good.  That was an excellent question.  It is an excellent question, but I’m going to reverse the question a little bit.  The question is not what is the United States doing to reverse the brain drain.  The question is, what are your countries doing to reverse the brain drain?  (Applause.) 

Now, many of you have friends who study overseas, they study in the West, and then they decide to stay instead of going back home.  Now, the United States, we are partnering with every country here.  I guarantee you there are programs to invest in education in your country.  There are programs to work with the universities in your countries.  I think you make an excellent point that on big projects like Power Africa, we should make sure that there is a capacity-building component.  And in fact, one of the things that’s been done with our development assistance that we’re providing is to emphasize capacity-building.

So, for example, our Feed the Future program, the goal is not to just keep on sending food forever.  The goal is teaching farmers to double or triple or quadruple their yields, which then gives them more income, which then allows them to buy maybe a tractor or to start a cooperative food-processing plant, that then accesses the market and the money gets reinvested, and now you’re building jobs and commerce inside the country as opposed to just being an aid recipient.  So I’m all about capacity-building.  

But ultimately, why is it that you have so many talented, well-educated young Africans leaving instead of staying?  Why is it that you have so many talented, well-educated people from the Middle East or parts of Asia, or Latin America who would rather live here than there?  

The issue is not just that we’re a wealthier country.  I think it’s fair to say — and you know better than I do — but part of it has to do with a young person’s assessment of can I succeed in applying my talents if, for example, the economy is still built on corruption so that I have to pay a bribe or be well-connected in order to start my business.  (Applause.)  Or are there still ethnic rivalries in the country, which means that if I’m from the wrong tribe, I’m less likely to advance.  Or is there still so much sexism in the country that if I’m a woman, then I’m expected just to be at home and be quiet, when I’m a trained doctor.  Or is there a lack of rule of law or basic human rights and freedoms that make me feel as if I am restricted in what I can do.

I make this point to say that some of the brain drain is economic.  But some of it has to do with people’s assessments of if I stay in my country, am I going to have the ability to succeed?  And that’s why, when I talk to leaders in Africa, or anywhere around the world, I say, look, if you put together the basics of rule of law and due process and democracy, and you’re able to keep peace so that there’s not conflict and constant danger, and the government is not corrupt, then even a poor country, you’re going to attract a lot of people who are going to want to live there because they’ll feel like they’re part of building something and are contributing something.

Because the one thing I’ve discovered is — right now, I live in a big house but it’s a lease, you know, I have to give it up in 18 months.  (Laughter.)  A big house is nice for the first month — it’s like, well, this is a really big house.  (Laughter.)  Then, after about two months you realize, I can’t live in all these rooms.  (Laughter.)  My life is not appreciably better once I’ve got the basics.  And I think a lot of young Africans would be much more interested in staying even if they don’t have as big of a house, or the shopping malls aren’t as big, or — if they felt as if the basics are taken care of, I can keep my family safe, I can practice my profession, I’m not going to be discriminated against — (applause) — the government is well-meaning and well-intentioned and is not corrupt, and public investments are being made, then people I think would have a sense of meaning in their lives.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t going to be some people who would still rather live in London or New York because they think they can make more money.  But I think that, as much as anything we do, is going to reverse the brain drain.  And that’s why what you do is going to be so important, because if you set a good example of going back home and rebuilding your country, and if you, as young leaders, are creating an environment in which young people can succeed and you’re setting a new set of expectations about how exciting it is to be part of something new — that can help turn the tide.

So, good luck.  (Applause.)  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  

12:22 P.M. EDT

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/4/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:58 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Nice to see you all.  We’ll do a couple of announcements at the top and then we’ll go to your questions.

The first is, the President was updated this morning by his top Homeland Security Advisor, Lisa Monaco, regarding the wildfires plaguing the American West.  Yesterday, the national preparedness level was raised to four, which means that three or more geographic areas are experiencing incidents required elevated management, including more resources and fire crews.  

Currently, there are up to 27 large uncontained active fires.  Nearly 37,000 total fires have been reported; 14,000 interagency personnel, including both state and federal jurisdictions, are assigned to the incidents, and this includes 108 helicopters and 22 air tankers that are available to fight the fires.

The President asked his team to stay in close touch with the governors and local officials as their efforts continue.  And the White House will continue to closely monitor the situation from here.

Finally, on behalf of the White House and the American people, I want to extend our gratitude along with our thoughts and prayers to the brave men and women who are battling these fires.  These are selfless individuals, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for putting their lives on the line to fight these fires and protect their fellow Americans.

Secondly, I just want to give you an update on the President’s schedule for later this week.  On Thursday, the President will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by underscoring the importance of restoring the landmark law, and reaffirming the principle at the heart of our democracy that all of us are created equal, and that each of us deserves a voice in our government.

The President will participate in a video teleconference with citizens nationwide, and he will be joined by Attorney General Loretta Lynch and United States Congressman John Lewis, along with advocates and state and local officials who have worked to strengthen and protect Americans’ rights to vote.  

As the President said in Selma, the Voting Rights Act was one of the crowning achievements of our democracy, and it’s our responsibility to honor the sacrifices of so many who risked so much by protecting the law as promised.  That’s why the President will take time out of his schedule to discuss this important issue on Thursday.  The event will be livestreamed on the White House website, and we’ll have more information about the event later this week.

So with that, Darlene, let’s go to your questions.  

Q    Thank you.  Couple on Iran.  The meeting this afternoon the President is having with the American Jewish leaders, I was wondering if the timing of that was arranged so that his meeting would purposely follow the Israeli Prime Minister’s webcast to some of the same — possibly some of the same American Jewish leaders who are opposed to the Iran deal.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Darlene, I can tell you that this event — or this meeting has been in the works for at least several days, if not more.  And the group of individuals that the President will meet with will include some who have publicly expressed some skepticism about the wisdom of this diplomatic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  It will include others who have articulated their public support for the agreement, and also a group of individuals who have not yet expressed a public opinion on the deal.

And this is an opportunity for the President to once again lay out his case to all of them about why he believes this is the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  He will make clear that this is an agreement that is not built on trust, but rather is built on the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.

And there will be an opportunity for those who participate in the meeting to ask questions directly to the President; that they’ll have an opportunity to make clear the concerns that they have and to ask questions about the details of the agreement.  And the President will be there to answer their questions.  

We will, at the conclusion of the meeting, provide you with a list of those who participated so that you’ll be able to examine for yourselves the diverse composition of opinions that’s included in the meeting.  

Q    Are you done?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I am.  (Laughter.)  Did I go on too long?  (Laughter.)  I probably did, but I appreciate you giving me the opportunity to answer your question.  

Q    But to the question of whether the meeting is sort of a response to Bibi — I mean, how do you answer that?

MR. EARNEST:  I would merely say that Prime Minister Netanyahu has had ample opportunity to make public his views of this particular situation.  You’ll recall that, I guess it was about five months ago now, he spoke to a joint session of the United States Congress that was carried live on television here in the United States.  Today, his team has organized a webcast to make his views known.

So it’s clear that he’s availed himself of a variety of opportunities to make clear what his views are, and the President obviously has his own views as well.  The Prime Minister has ample opportunity to make clear what his views are, and he’s taken advantage of that opportunity.  But the President, as you’ve heard him say, will make clear that he believes that this effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon isn’t just in the best interest of the United States — and it is — the President believes that it’s in the national security interest of our closest ally in the region, Israel, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.  And that’s a view the President has made clear in public to all of you and it’s a view that he will reiterate in the context of this meeting with leaders in the American Jewish community later this afternoon.

Q    You mentioned that on Thursday he is going to take some questions to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.  Will the President put himself in a position where he can take people’s questions on the Iran deal?  Maybe the White House would consider doing a town hall where he could be seen answering regular people’s questions about the agreement?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that’s certainly an intriguing idea.  I’m not aware of anything like that that’s on the schedule, but obviously there are another 45 or 50 days that Congress has to consider this agreement, which means there are another 45 or 50 days for the President to make public his case about why he believes this sort of agreement is in the best interest of the United States and the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Obviously, the President has taken questions in a variety of settings on this topic.  Just a day after announcing this agreement, he took questions from all of you over in the East Room — or at least from many of you over in the East Room.

Q    But we’re not real people.  

MR. EARNEST:  (Laughter.)  Well, but I do think that those — well, maybe the jury is still out on that question.  But there’s no doubt that the people in this room have been following this issue as closely as anyone, and all of you have access to information to evaluate this agreement.  And so that’s why the President made a point very early on in this process of spending more than an hour with all of you answering questions to discuss this.

So I certainly wouldn’t rule out future public engagements in which the President takes questions on this.  You all have reported on the wide variety of private meetings that the President has had with individual members of Congress.  Many of those meetings, if not all of them, have been characterized by a lot of Q&A and give-and-take, both in settings involving a large number of members of Congress but also even in some one-on-one settings, too.  So the President certainly hasn’t been shy about his willingness to do some Q&A on this, and I wouldn’t rule out that he might do some Q&A with members of the general public on this in the future.


Q    Josh, is the White House or the administration considering returning a Chinese businessman, Ling Wancheng, to China on their request?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, I’m limited in what I can say about this particular matter.  Let me just — there are a couple of things I can say, however.  The first is that the United States and China regularly engage on law enforcement matters of mutual concern, including when it comes to fugitives and fighting corruption.  Through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation, what U.S. law enforcement officials routinely emphasize to Chinese officials is that it’s incumbent upon them to provide U.S. officials with significant, clear and convincing evidence to allow our law enforcement agencies to proceed with investigations and even removals and prosecutions of fugitives.

As we stated many times in the past, the United States is not a safe haven for fugitives from any country.  And the facts that support any insinuation that we are hindering any other nation’s campaign against corruption just don’t stand up to the reality of our efforts.  The United States is an international leader in anti-corruption, and we will continue to work with partners across the globe to advance the fight against corruption.  

When it comes to the details of any particular case, including the case of Ling Wancheng that has attracted some media attention in the last 24 hours, I’m not able to comment on any specific details. 

Q    Are you able to say whether you consider him a fugitive? 

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not able to render any judgment on this particular individual’s case.  

Q    Okay.  And going — sort of looking forward to September, the President of China is coming to the United States.  How does this particular issue, as well as some of the other major irritations in their relationship like the hacking, like China’s aggression, as some would say, in the South China Sea, how will that affect that visit?  And how are you preparing for it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jeff, you’ve listed a couple of the irritants in the relationship between the United States and China.  The one that’s most regularly cited was the law enforcement action.  In fact, that was carried out by the Department of Justice a year or two ago to indict five Chinese military officials for their actions in cyberspace.  That was an irritant because the United States obviously has deep concerns about the activities of those individuals.  And the Chinese government expressed some frustration, and even concern, about the public law enforcement action that was taken against five military officials. 

So we’ve acknowledged that these kinds of differences exist in our relationship.  They carry over into other areas as well.  We’ve raised concerns in the past about our concern about China insufficiently protecting intellectual property, to say nothing of the concerns about some of their destabilizing activities in the South China Sea. 

At the same time, however, the United States has been able to work effectively with China to advance the mutual interests of our countries.  There are a couple of good examples of that on high-profile issues.  The first is, when the President traveled to China last fall, President Obama stood next to President Xi and announced that both countries were taking historic steps to curb carbon pollution.  I’ll remind you that China was an active participant in the P5+1 negotiations, alongside the United States and our international partners, to reach a diplomatic agreement with Iran to prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  

So those are not — neither of those is an insignificant issue.  And both of those are examples where the United States and China have been able to effectively work together in ways that we could make progress for the citizens of our countries that may not have been possible had we been working alone. 

And that’s an indication that U.S. engagement with China is useful in protecting and even advancing the interest of the United States.  It doesn’t mean we’re going to always agree, but it does mean it’s worth preserving a constructive working relationship.  And it’s rooted in the President’s desire to have that kind of constructive, effective, productive relationship with China that he has decided to invite President Xi for a visit later this fall.  

But there’s no doubt that even for all those areas where we can cooperate, at least some portion of that meeting will be dedicated to some of the differences that exist between our two countries as well.

Q    Are you any closer to being able to say publicly or formally who was behind the OPM hack? 

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any additional information on that.  There has been obviously extensive public speculation about the attribution of some of those concerning actions in cyberspace.   But I don’t have any new information to share publicly today.


Q    Josh, I want to go over to the voting rights issue.  And I want to ask one thing about irony.  Is there irony — does this administration find there’s irony in the fact that the anniversary is Thursday, 50 years ago, of the Voting Rights Act was passed into law, and then you have the first GOP presidential debate where many of them are not feeling the Voting Rights Act as it stood? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess one person’s irony might be another person’s serendipity.  And maybe there will be an opportunity for Republican candidates to discuss the importance of protecting the right of every eligible American to cast a vote, particularly in an election as consequential as the upcoming presidential election. 

Q    When the President comes out and talking about restoration, 50 years ago there was a focus on Southern states with the problems in poll taxes and trying to come up with a test to make sure that African Americans were able to vote.  Now there are different challenges in various states across the nation.  Where does the President stand as it relates to restoring the Voting Rights Act?  What parts does he want to keep and which parts does he want to, I guess, bolster?   Or what does he want to take out?  What does he want to do?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ll have an opportunity to hear more from the President directly on this later this week.  I’ll just say as a general matter, the President has been concerned, and even dismayed, by the significant amount of energy and effort that’s been expended almost exclusively by Republicans to make it more difficult for eligible citizens to cast a ballot.  

And the spirit of the country — in fact, the values of the country — would reinforce a view that every eligible American should have an opportunity to participate in their government and in their democracy.  And that is what motivates the President’s view of this policy, and that’s why the President is marking the 50th anniversary of this historic piece of legislation. 

Q    And on another subject, Sandra Bland’s family is filing a lawsuit after the government there said there was no reason for her to have been arrested.  And reports are saying she committed suicide.  What does the White House feel about that? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any comments on that specific civil litigation that’s been filed.  I can confirm for you that the Department of Justice continues to monitor the situation in Texas, and I know that local prosecutors continue to examine the circumstances of this case.  But I don’t have any additional information about federal action that’s been taken at this point. 


Q    Can I follow up quickly on voting rights and then I have a couple other things?  But there was a push a couple weeks ago from congressional Democrats to tie — essentially dropping their concern or their objection to displaying Confederate flags in military cemeteries to getting a vote on voting rights.  And I’m wondering if that’s a strategy that the White House has endorsed or been in contact with. 

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific discussions between the White House and leaders in the House Democratic caucus who I think championed that effort.  But obviously the administration is very interested in trying to make some progress on the Voting Rights Act, and we certainly have been in touch with members of Congress in both parties about that.  And you heard the President speak pretty forcefully about his support for renewing the Voting Rights Act in the speech that he delivered in Selma, Alabama earlier this year.  

Q    On Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico went into default for the first time yesterday.  And I’m wondering if you could just talk a bit about what the administration is doing at this point to help address that and if there’s concerns that it could impact the broader U.S. economy.

MR. EARNEST:  Justin, at this point I’m not going to be in a position to comment on any specific decisions that Puerto Rico’s leaders have made regarding their debt obligations.  But I will reiterate that we believe Puerto Rico needs an orderly process to restructure its unsustainable liabilities.  Unfortunately, Puerto Rico’s significant financial challenges didn’t begin overnight.  And this latest development is set against the backdrop of ongoing broader economic challenges across the island. 

And the President did establish a task force on Puerto Rico, essentially an interagency task force in Puerto Rico to try to leverage available federal assistance to assist Puerto Rico’s leaders as they confront these significant financial challenges.  And the work of that task force and our ongoing commitment to coordinating our efforts with leaders in Puerto Rico continues.  

But as I’ve said before, there’s no — the administration does not envision a bailout for Puerto Rico.  But where available federal assistance can be leveraged to assist the leaders of Puerto Rico in meeting some of their financial obligations, we stand ready to help. 

Q    And last thing on Iran.  Chairman Royce sent Secretary Kerry a letter yesterday and made public today, saying that it was imperative for Congress to be able to review this agreement between Iran and the IAEA that we’ve been discussing for more than a week now.  

I know everything that you’ve got to say about it not being a side deal and that you’re briefing Congress to the extent that you can.  But I’m wondering about two specific questions.  The first is something that you were asked last week but said that you hadn’t had a chance to review, which is whether the White House was confident that it had satisfied all the legal requirements of the Iran review legislation in terms of turning over information about these deals to Congress.

And the second is whether the President would veto legislation demanding that the actual text of these agreements be turned over to Congress.  This is something that some Senate Republicans floated.  

MR. EARNEST:  I can say that all of the available information that the administration has about this diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon has been turned over to Congress.  And I believe that was done on July 19th or 20th — whatever that Sunday was.  I believe it was the 20th.  And so that has been completed.  And that was — the presentation of those documents is what initiated a 60-day clock that Congress has imposed for the consideration of this agreement.  

And what we have indicated is a willingness — above and beyond the documents that were required to be submitted — is to spend time briefing Congress, in person, with our experts who actually were responsible for negotiating the agreement in the first place.

And that has included detailed, classified briefings about the contents of — or about the nature and contents of the agreement that was reached between Iran and the IAEA as it relates to the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.  And that classified briefing has already occurred for a large number of House members and I know that there’s a classified briefing for senators that’s scheduled for later this week.

I also know that the Director General of the IAEA is planning a series of meetings on Capitol Hill today as well.  And I think this is an indication of the administration’s desire for Congress to understand as much as possible about this important agreement so that they can judge for themselves about the success we believe this agreement will ensure to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Q    Would you veto legislation requiring turning over the physical text, knowing that you’re offering this briefing?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t seen the specific legislative proposal, and the reason I say that in this case is that it’s not immediately obvious to me what sort of congressional action — what sort of oversight Congress would have over an agreement between Iran and the IAEA.  In other words, I’m not sure exactly what impact the passing of legislation would have on the agreement between Iran and the IAEA.  You know what I mean?  Like, I’m not sure that Iran — that Congress can compel Iran — 

Q    Well, I think probably they would void the President’s ability to implement the Iran deal by saying that it’s tied to — whether or not he turns over the actual text of this agreement between Iran and the IAEA.

MR. EARNEST:  I see.  Well, obviously, then I guess I’d refer you to the answer that I just said, which is we believe that we’ve produced all of the material that Congress needs in order to consider this specific agreement, and we have followed up the presentation of those documents with extensive, in-person briefings by the individuals who are responsible for negotiating the agreement in the first place.  And those briefings have taken place in a classified setting.  Those briefings have taken place in one-on-one meetings.  Those briefings have also taken place out in the general public, under oath, before congressional committees, both in the House and in the Senate.  

So there are a variety of ways in which this information and this briefing — and these briefings have taken place, all in an effort to help members of Congress understand exactly what’s included in this diplomatic agreement.


Q    Josh, on the campaign trail and probably in Thursday night’s debate, we will hear once again Republican candidates say how when they get to be President, they’re going to tear up this agreement.  If, in the end, after the 60-day review period, the other machinations, it is implemented, can a Republican President come in here and just tear that agreement up?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m sure there’s somebody who could give you a more lawyerly answer than I can, but I think what I can explain to you is that it would be foolish for a future President to do that, primarily because this will be an agreement that had been implemented.  And we will have an opportunity over the course of the next year and a half to implement the agreement and to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

Keep in mind, if Iran doesn’t comply with the agreement — and we’ll be able to tell, because we have the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program — but if we detect that Iran is not abiding by the significant commitments that they have made in the context of the agreement, then sanctions will snap back into place, and we will preserve the international unanimity of opinion in confronting Iran and their nuclear program.

And that international unity would be completely gutted if another President were to take office after a year and a half and, despite Iran’s compliance with the agreement, were to unilaterally withdraw from that agreement.  The other thing that strikes me about that is it’s unclear exactly what that would accomplish — is the suggestion that they would withdraw the United States from the agreement and somehow impose additional sanctions unilaterally on Iran.  

The reason that would be foolish is we’ve talked about the fact that the reason that our sanctions regime was so successful in compelling Iran to come to the negotiating table is that it required not just action by the United States, but by coordinated action all around the globe — not just among the members of the P5+1, but other significant economies that have close economic ties with Iran, including countries like India and South Korea and Japan.

And it’s not at all obvious that the United States unilaterally withdrawing from the agreement, that we would have any standing or success in persuading other countries around the world to go along with us, particularly if over the last year and a half we’ve been able to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement.  Keep in mind, Iran’s compliance with the agreement includes reducing their nuclear stockpile by 98 percent, disconnecting 13,000 centrifuges, and essentially gutting the core of their heavy-water plutonium reactor.

So again, the reason that I would describe such an action as foolish is it’s not at all clear what that would accomplish other than making a military confrontation in the Middle East much more likely.

Q    Obviously we’re dealing with hypotheticals, but conversely, is there anything in this agreement that would bind a future President to adhering to it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the binding comes in with the inherent — the significant inherent value of preserving the international coalition to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And that coalition would be significantly undermined if the United States were to unilaterally withdraw.  


Q    But it’s not a treaty?  

MR. EARNEST:  That’s correct.

Q    Just to follow up on Bob’s question.

MR. EARNEST:  That’s correct.

Q    Getting back to Justin’s question about these side agreements, or the one that exists between the IAEA and Iran.  I guess the thrust of Chairman Royce’s concern is that this would set a precedent that Iran could say, well, we’ve got this agreement with the IAEA, we don’t have to comply with the other parts of the deal.  That seems to be the thrust of his concern.  How do you address that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess the first way that I would confront that concern is that there already is a precedent.  The IAEA has bilateral agreements with I think — I believe it’s on the order of 180 countries around the world.  And those are bilateral agreements between the IAEA and individual countries; in this case, between the IAEA and Iran. 

Now, the key here is that the United States and our negotiating team is aware of what’s included in that agreement, and that’s why we’ve been willing to communicate the contents of that agreement to members of Congress.  We want to do it in a classified setting because it includes a bunch of sensitive information, including information related to nuclear proliferation that we obviously don’t want to advertise broadly on the Internet.

Q    When you say communicate, you’re saying that you’re just talking about what’s in that side agreement?  You’re not showing the text. 


Q    Does the administration have the text?  Has Secretary Kerry viewed this, Secretary Moniz?  Is there a text?

MR. EARNEST:  There is a text.  The administration does not have a text.  The text is a text that is shared between the IAEA and Iran.  But I want to go back to this key thing.  I would not describe it as a side agreement, and the reason simply is this, Jim.  The information that we’re talking about is information that the IAEA needs to write a report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.  And the United States and our negotiating partners has made clear that this deal, this broader agreement will not go forward until Iran has complied with all of the IAEA’s requests for information and access that they need in order to write that report.

So that’s why I would not describe this as some sort of side agreement.  This is a critical —

Q    What do you call it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s an agreement directly between —

Q    Working document or — 

MR. EARNEST:  It’s an agreement directly between Iran and the IAEA.  But what we have made clear is that any sanctions relief will not be provided to Iran by the international community until Iran has complied with the requests for information and access that have been submitted by the IAEA.  So this is —

Q    So it would be up to the IAEA to determine whether or not Iran is complying with respect to Parchin?  Is that right?  And then the P5+1 has essentially agreed to — well, if the IAEA’s interpretation of compliance at Parchin is acceptable, then we’re okay with that.

MR. EARNEST:  So the IAEA is an international organization of nuclear experts that is responsible for enforcing the Non-Proliferation Treaty around the world.  So the IAEA — when we talk about the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program, those inspections will be conducted by the IAEA.  

And essentially, what the United States and the international community is doing is we’re coming in on behalf of the IAEA and telling Iran — we’re mandating to Iran that they must cooperate with the IAEA at every turn.  They must cooperate with them when it comes to preparing their report about the possible military dimensions of their nuclear program.  That’s to account for past behavior.  But even moving forward, the international community is going to insist — including the United States — is going to insist that Iran cooperate with IAEA inspectors who are responsible for verifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement.

They’re also responsible for, I might point out, the permanent, the never-ending commitment that Iran has now made to never develop a nuclear weapon.  And that is why there will be permanent inspections in place by IAEA nuclear experts to verify that Iran is not developing a nuclear weapon.

And for too long, what’s happened in the past is that Iran has essentially given the IAEA the run-around, and that’s what —

Q    How do you know that’s not going to happen again?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, because the international community has come forward and said, if you want relief from these terrible sanctions that have had a decimating impact on your economy, then you need to cooperate with the IAEA, both when it comes to access and information that’s required to write about the possible military dimensions of your nuclear program in the past, but you’re also going to need to cooperate with them moving forward to verify that you’re not developing a nuclear weapon.

Q    And you’re satisfied that there’s — none of that wiggle room is built into this sidecar or whatever you want to call it between the IAEA and Iran?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, the reason that I resist describing it as a side agreement is because the agreement does not go forward unless Iran performs and follows through on the commitments that they’ve made to the IAEA to provide the information and access that the IAEA needs to write this report.

I’ll also point out that — sometimes this gets lost — we’ve set a deadline for that compliance.  We have insisted that Iran actually provide that access and that information by October 15th.  If they don’t, there’s not going to be any forthcoming sanctions relief.  And the reason for that is we want the IAEA to have access and information as soon as possible so that they can also complete their report before the end of the year.  That’s what they’re aiming to do.

Q    And yesterday, our colleague, JC, asked the question about this comparison between the President’s speech tomorrow at American University and President Kennedy’s speech.  Do you like that comparison?  What do you make of that comparison?

MR. EARNEST:  I think what’s appropriate about that comparison is President Kennedy more than 50 years ago entered into a diplomatic agreement with an adversary of the United States that did succeed in advancing the national security interests of the United States.  The United States — 

Q    A long time, Cold War —

MR. EARNEST:  Sure did.  But we clearly know who won, and we clearly know that the national security interests — 

Q    Might this diplomatic process — might this go on for another couple of decades before Iran and the United States can be in the same place where the U.S. and the Soviet Union were at the end of the 1980s?  Is that — 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think that’s a difficult historical analogy to draw.  Let me point out one thing that I mentioned yesterday to JC that I think is also relevant to this.  So it’s not just that Senator Kennedy engaged an adversary of the United States to use diplomacy to advance the national security interests of the United States.  There’s another thing that Senator — President Kennedy had to do, which is that he had to make some concessions on the part of the United States that there were commitments that the United States — there are elements of our nuclear program that were rolled back in the context of that diplomatic agreement with the Soviet Union in the early 1960s.  

In the context of this agreement, you have President Obama, who has entered into a diplomatic agreement with the international community, with one of our adversaries, to advance the national security interests of the United States.  But here’s the catch — the United States didn’t have to make any concessions.  There’s no impact from this nuclear agreement on the United States and either our nuclear programs or our military programs.

And that’s — again, I think that speaks to the strength of this agreement that the President was able to reach alongside the international community in confronting Iran’s nuclear program.

Q    I don’t mean to belabor this, but he’s aiming for that comparison then with this speech tomorrow?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s a comparison that we welcome when it comes to this principle about the —

Q    Negotiating that deal. 

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, the effectiveness of principled, smart, tough diplomacy even with our adversaries to advance the national security interests of the United States.  

Q    And finally — I’m sorry to take so much time — but on a separate subject, is the Obama administration doing anything in terms of oversight, investigation?  Is a call being made to look into what is being alleged occurred inside these Planned Parenthood facilities?  Any activity whatsoever inside the administration?  Or is the White House essentially looking at these videos and saying these are selectively edited, doctored, whatever you want to call it, edited in such a way to indict Planned Parenthood unfairly?  Or is there some concern inside this administration about these videos?  

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, you’ve heard me say a couple of times now, including on your network, that these are videos that were released for their shock value.  And they clearly are shocking.  I think that’s the reason that you saw the President of Planned Parenthood apologize for the statements that are included on that video just a day or two after the videos were released. 

Q    I understand that.  But these are health care facilities, and the administration has a responsibility to monitor and provide oversight for health care facilities.  So I’m just curious, is any of that going to go on? 

MR. EARNEST:  For any questions about oversight of health care facilities, I’d refer you to HHS.  


Q    Can I switch to immigration for a moment?  ICE has been an issue for some time among advocates of reform for immigration.  And now, apparently, there seems to be some pushback from municipal governments on whether or not they want to cooperate with ICE in the President’s program, or DHS program, to bring back those who were criminally — who have committed crimes.  Does ICE have a credibility problem?  Because sometimes they have not — frequently they have not followed what the administration wants to be done.  Frequently they have deported people who were not criminals, and is not administration policy, is my understanding.  Does ICE have a credibility problem not only with the cities but with this administration? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I think that there are a variety of ways in which our broken immigration system has had a negative impact on the ability of law enforcement officials, both at the federal and local levels, to do their job.  

And the lack of clarity about the immigration policy in this country is why the President believes that reform is badly needed.  And in fact, the President is strongly supportive of reform that brings greater accountability to our broken immigration system.  And so this — our broken immigration system has resulted in a lot of frustration being expressed by local law enforcement officers about the best way to protect the communities that they’re sworn to serve and protect.  

There’s also been some frustration expressed by ICE officers — these are essentially federal law enforcement officers — about how to use their limited resources to try to both enforce the law but also to protect communities all across the country.  

That’s why the President was a strong advocate of comprehensive immigration reform.  The President built a strong bipartisan majority, Jim, as you know and covered closely.  And that’s why we were particularly disappointed that Republicans in the House of Representatives blocked the passage of that compromise proposal because that compromise, comprehensive, immigration reform proposal made a historic investment in border security, and it would have greatly enhanced the available law enforcement resources to enforce the law and protect our communities. 

And that’s why it’s such a shame, even a tragedy, that Republicans in Congress blocked comprehensive immigration reform. 

Q    But we are who we are.  I mean — 

MR. EARNEST:  Because of the efforts of House Republicans to block comprehensive immigration reform — but yes. 

Q    Point taken.  We are who we are, and the administration has to deal with what’s going on now.  

MR. EARNEST:  That’s right. 

Q    And what’s going on now, it appears, is ICE doesn’t consistently follow what their bosses are telling them to do.  Is there a problem there? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, what the President has said — and these are part of the executive actions that he rolled out at the end of last year, and essentially that was to pursue a policy at DHS that would focus law enforcement resources on those individuals that pose the most significant threat to public safety and to national security.  

So these are individuals with a record of committing violent crime, individuals with known gang affiliations, and even individuals who have repeatedly violated immigration law by crossing the border time and time again.  Those individuals were made a priority, and those are the individuals that the administration believes should be the focus of law enforcement efforts and the focus of deportation efforts. 

Q    But is that getting down to the field?  Because there have been deportations of families, of people who are not criminals, and at the same time, criminals like the one apparently in San Francisco, the alleged criminal there, have not been deported.  So is there not the emphasis that you want, the administration wants, being carried through? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can’t speak to individual cases.  But the President and the Secretary of Homeland Security have been very clear about what they believe is the most effective way for us to bring accountability to our broken immigration system, and that is to set the enforcement priorities in the way that I’ve just described.  

But ultimately, it is the responsibility of our law enforcement officers who are dealing with, in a very challenging environment, with limited resources to try to enforce a fundamentally broken system.  And that’s why it’s such a shame, even a tragedy, that Congress — that Republicans in Congress blocked a solution to this problem.  And it’s why the President has tried to impose a solution that would bring much needed accountability to our broken immigration system.  But it’s also why even after taking that action, we continue to urge Congress to take the kind of legislative action that’s needed to finally address this. 

Q    And just one more subject, if I could — and that is the USA Today report today that mass public shootings have increased in frequency from one a year to about four and a half a year, and that some 33 people were dying in the past every year — that are dying now every year because of mass shootings.  Has the President — does the President have a plan to reintroduce new gun control while he’s still President?  Or has he given up? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I think it was in the interview that the President conducted with the BBC shortly before departing for his trip to Africa that he expressed that this was the inability of Congress to take even common-sense steps that would make our communities more safe by keeping guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. 

That has been the source of his biggest frustration as President.  And there are dozens of executive actions that this administration has taken to try to plug holes and fill some gaps.  And these are common-sense steps that we can take without in any way infringing upon the basic constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans that’s protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. 

And the fact is, there are additional steps that Congress could take that would protect those constitutional rights while at the same time protecting our communities, including those communities that are increasingly home to the victims of gun violence. 

And again, it’s not just mass shootings that attract so much attention.  It’s even those shootings that have become all too common in significant — in larger urban areas all across the country. 

Q    But we should not expect any significant legislative initiative by the White House before President Obama leaves office? 

MR. EARNEST:  I think the President has made clear that he doesn’t expect a change of heart in Congress on this issue until the American public makes clear to members of Congress that their decisions, when it comes to provisions that would reduce gun violence in this country, are voting decisions that are going to be accounted for at the ballot box on Election Day. 

And we’ve not yet seen that kind of significant outpouring of support from the American public, at least in a sufficient quantity, to change the minds of individual members of Congress.  But that ultimately is the key here.  There’s no legislative strategy, there’s no trick to the legislative process that’s going to change the outcome.  The only thing that will change the outcome is a strong, clear, outpouring of public support from the American people. 

Q    So if he’s leaving it to the next election, that means he’s leaving it to the next President, he’s not going to do it himself?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I don’t — this is an issue that the President is going to continue to advocate for.  But, ultimately, the way that we’re going to see the decisions that are made by members of Congress change is when we see members of the American public change their minds.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  So just to follow up on that, so the President thinks at this point, given the curt political climate, he’s done everything he can do in terms of proactively advancing gun control?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, at least when it comes to the legislative process — and I think the President has been pretty clear about this for a couple of years now — that the way that we’re going to get to see — the only way we’re going to be able to change the minds of members of Congress is if members of the American public make clear that these kinds of decisions are going to be taken into account when they’re casting their ballot on election day.  And we’ve not seen enough outpouring of support from the American public to change many minds on Capitol Hill yet.  

But certainly the President is going to continue to be an advocate on this issue because he is very concerned about the impact that gun violence is having on communities all across the country.  And I mean, those communities that surely have been the site of terrible tragic mass shootings but also those communities that are the subject of what are now tragically routine incidents of gun violence — the President is very concerned about this.  The President continues to be an advocate for policies that would reduce gun violence.  

But, again, if we’re going to have success in the legislative process, it’s going to be because members of Congress change their minds on this issue.  And the only people who have the authority to change — or the power to change the minds of members of Congress are their constituents.

Q    Yesterday, when Senator Schumer was holding his press conference with his cousin, Amy, he — in addition to calling for new legislation — called on the Justice Department to make recommendations on how states deal with mental health issues.  Is that something that the President has had discussions with him about?  Is it something the President would get behind?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I know there — I haven’t looked at the specific proposal that he’s advocating — I’d be happy to take that question — but I do know that a number of the executive actions that this administration announced almost two years ago included steps that would make sure that mental health information is more effectively shared between medical professionals and law enforcement to, again, try to do some common-sense things that would keep guns out of the hands of those individuals who shouldn’t have them.

Q    Chuck Schumer also said yesterday he’s not made a decision on whether to support the Iran nuclear deal.  Obviously he’s a key player in all of this, somebody who is widely respected.  And I wonder how much conversation there’s been — if you can share anything between either the President and Chuck Schumer, or other members of the administration and Chuck Schumer and how closely you keep in touch with him on this issue.

MR. EARNEST:  Very close.  I can tell you that there have been extensive conversations between senior administration officials and Senator Schumer that actually predate the completion of the comprehensive agreement that was announced a couple of weeks ago.

This is an issue that —

Q    But more recently?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is an issue that Senator Schumer takes very seriously.  And to his credit, he is closely studying this agreement and he obviously takes his responsibilities in this matter very seriously.  And he has actually actively sought the input and briefings and information from senior administration officials as it relates to this agreement.  And the administration has readily engaged in those conversations.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  Two questions.  So far, the Senate has only confirmed five judicial nominees this year.  And they’re getting ready to leave for a month, so no more for another month at least.  Is the President frustrated by the pace of his judicial confirmations?  And what is the White House doing, if anything, to try to get these moving?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jen, the administration certainly is interested in seeing Congress act to faithfully fulfill their responsibility to advise and consent on a wide variety of administration nominees — not just judicial nominees, but even some executive branch nominees as well.  

And over the last seven months or so, since Republicans did assume the majority in the Senate, we’ve seen that process almost completely break down.  And even when it came to confirming someone like Attorney General Lynch — somebody with strong bipartisan support, with impeccable credentials — it took — remember, it took almost as long as the four or five previous attorneys general nominees combined to finally get her confirmation completed.

So we have on a number of occasions expressed our frustration about the inability of the United States Senate to perform one of their most basic functions, which is to offer their advice and consent on nomination — on administration nominees.

Q    Has the White House been working with the Senate Republican leadership at all on this?

MR. EARNEST:  I know that there have been some conversations, if you will, on this matter, but I don’t have details of those conversations to share.

Q    Okay.  And then the second question — we’re coming up on the one-year anniversary of the United States bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and there’s still no new AUMF.  Does the President feel like there’s a point at which the 2001 AUMF can’t be used anymore as this military campaign escalates?

MR. EARNEST:  I would say, Jen, that in the proposed legislation that the administration put forward several months ago, it included language that would repeal the 2002 AUMF and aim to refine the 2001 AUMF.  The President has previously given speeches articulating the variety of concerns that he has with the overly broad nature in which the 2001 AUMF was written and passed.  There are a lot of logical explanations for why that’s the case, but there’s not a good explanation for why Congress hasn’t taken steps now to fix it.  

And the President has made very clear about what steps he believes is necessary to fix it; in fact, we’ve even submitted our own proposed legislative language to try to address some of those concerns.  But the truth is, we’ve run into a United States Congress that seems very interested in discussing this issue but not actually doing anything on it.  And that has also been a source of some frustration for the administration.

Q    But does the President believe there’s a point at which this — the current — the 2001 AUMF can’t be used anymore?  Is there some scenario, such as DOD-backed rebels in Syria being attacked — would the 2001 AUMF authorize airstrikes against people attacking DOD rebels in Syria, for example?

MR. EARNEST:  We did talk about this a little bit yesterday, and it is true that there are Syrian opposition fighters operating inside Syria that have gone through the train-and-equip operation that is run by DOD and our coalition partners.  And there has already been one occasion where those opposition fighters came under fire from other extremists that are operating inside Syria, and the United States and our coalition partners took military action to protect those coalition-trained anti-ISIL fighters inside Syria.  And the President and his lawyers have determined that the 2001 AUMF does apply in that particular case.

But I think you raise an argument that this administration has made, which is that there’s a lot of clarity that could be derived from Congress following through, from Congress living up to the rhetoric that we saw from members of Congress on both sides to try to put in place an anti-ISIL AUMF.  And the administration engaged in lengthy and significant and extensive discussions up to, and including, the President of the United States to try to broker compromise language on this.  We even put forward on paper our written proposal for how Congress could take this action, but yet we’ve seen little, other than one or two hearings on Capitol Hill.  And that’s a disappointment and it represents a fundamental failure of the United States Congress to perform one of the more important functions that they have.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  What is the President’s key message to Jewish leaders today?  And how, if at all, does that message differ from his broader message to the American people?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the President is going to deliver very clearly his view that this diplomatic effort to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon isn’t just the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, it’s also in the best national security interest of both the United States and Israel.  And that’s a pretty blunt, direct case that the President will make.  He will reiterate his view that that agreement is not based on trust but rather based on our ability to impose the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been conducted against a country’s nuclear program.  

That’s a case that I think sounds familiar to you.  You’ve heard the President make that case directly at least a couple of times, even in person.  And I can’t predict at this point what sort of questions the President is likely to get from the assembled group, but certainly when it comes to the President’s opening presentation, it will be along the lines of what I just described and along the lines of the kind of case that’s very familiar to those of you who have been following closely.

Q    Let me ask you about the IAEA and the inspections that might happen, and even some of these contested sites.  Are Americans allowed to be a part of the IAEA inspection group in any case, or is that prohibited by this particular deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Kevin, U.S. officials will not be part of the inspections team because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with Iran.  But there certainly are Americans at the IAEA, and that organization more broadly will be responsible for conducting these inspections, and it will be Iran’s responsibility to meet the expectations that the IAEA has, or the agreement is going to fall apart and we’ll see sanctions either snap back into place or sanctions relief not even start — because as I mentioned earlier, Iran has to comply with the IAEA’s request for access and information so that they can complete their report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program before any sanctions relief is even offered in the first place.  So Iran’s compliance with the IAEA’s request for access and information are necessary before any sort of sanctions relief is offered.

Q    And lastly, far be it for me to lean on a brilliant Brit in John Oliver, you’re mentioning voting rights.  What about the voting rights of the nearly 700,000 Americans that live here in the District?  Is there anything you all do, are you willing to do, are you trying to do so that people in Washington, D.C. can vote?

MR. EARNEST:  Kevin, the President has strongly articulated his support for a home rule in Washington.  And there does appear to be a desire of District residents to exercise more control over the management of their district and the management of their communities.  And too often we’ve seen Congress interfere in those efforts, and that’s something the President strongly opposes.

Q    Statehood — yes or no?  Will he back that as well?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, ultimately, that would be a decision that we would support the residents of the District making for themselves.


Q    The TPP talks, trade talks, ended a few days ago without any real progress.  I’m wondering if the President’s legacy on trade that he worked so hard to get through Congress, the TPA, is in peril right now.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Susan, what we’ve made clear is that the President is not going to accept an agreement that isn’t clearly in the best interest of middle-class families here in the United States, or he also will not accept an agreement that’s not clearly in the best interest of the national security of the United States.  

So the President has set a pretty high bar for what’s acceptable to him when it comes to a final TPP agreement that he’s willing to sign on to.  And that means that our negotiators, when sitting around the table with the 11 or 12 other countries that are part of these discussions, are driving a pretty hard bargain.  And so it’s not particularly surprising to me that efforts to reach a final agreement are taking a little bit more time than originally expected.  But that’s simply because our negotiators have been given instructions by the President about what’s acceptable and what’s not.

So ultimately, the President is much less worried about his legacy and much more worried about the impact of what a good trade agreement would have on the country.  And the President, frankly, is not one to sign on to a bad one.

Q    There’s been a Reuters report recently — I guess yesterday afternoon — that said — talked to numerous people at the State Department and found that there was some, according to the report, playing politics with this human trafficking report that came out July 27th.  And there’s going to be a hearing on Thursday in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Menendez and others are very concerned about the accusation of playing politics with a modern slavery report and prostitution report.  Can you address those concerns and put to rest any suggestion that there was politics at play here?  Because with Malaysia and Cuba, you know those are the two issues there.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would refer you to the State Department.  This is a process that was run by the State Department, and they can speak to the process that they used to publish this report.  

I know what their goal was, and their goal was to offer up a detailed assessment of whether foreign governments — or whether foreign government efforts comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons that the United States has established.  So the department — the State Department, in this case — strives to make the report as accurate as possible, documenting the successes and shortcomings of other governments’ anti-trafficking efforts.

So that was the ultimate goal of the report, and that is what the findings reveal, is the conclusion that was drawn by — or that was yielded through this policymaking process at the State Department.  But this is a process that lived at the State Department, so I’d refer you to them for any questions about — that some may have about political interference.

Q    Can you say definitively that the White House did not have any role to play in that report in influencing whether Malaysia, Cuba or China got a better grade?

MR. EARNEST:  I can tell you that this is a process that lived at the State Department, and the White House was very respectful of the ongoing policy process at the State Department for publishing this report.

Q    And just one final one.  I don’t know if it’s already been reported, but what is the White House going to do, what is the President going to do to celebrate his birthday today?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President did, over the previous weekend, did get to spend some time on the golf course and at Camp David with some of his friends.  And I don’t have any other additional details about what may or may not be in store for today.


Q    Josh, President Obama and Vice President Biden were having lunch today — I presume it’s over — and it’s lunch at a time when speculation is at a fever pitch on whether Vice President Biden will decide to run for President.  To borrow your phrase, is this lunch irony or serendipity?  (Laughter.) 

MR. EARNEST:  In this case, Mark, it’s serendipity.  The President and Vice President routinely have a lunch together about once a week, and there’s a reason there are only two place settings at the table, which is it is a unique opportunity for the President and the Vice President to talk privately about whatever happens to be on their minds.  

And so I don’t have a good sense about what exactly was discussed in their lunch.  I suspect they covered a variety of topics — some personal, some public, as they relate to ongoing debates.  And I wouldn’t be surprised if there was maybe even some politics discussed.  But I don’t have any insight to share.

Q    Maybe?  

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I don’t know whether or not — I don’t have any insight.  As I mentioned yesterday, I don’t have any insight into the Vice President’s current thinking on this particular matter.  But again, the President and the Vice President have the kind of relationship where they speak pretty candidly with one another knowing that that information will remain private.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just to follow up on the Voting Rights Act, Martin O’Malley has said that — is going to be advocating for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote for everyone to sort of overcast all the ID laws and so forth.  Is that something the President or this administration could ever support?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Fred, I haven’t seen his specific proposal, but obviously a constitutional amendment along those lines is certainly something that would be consistent with the values and priorities that the President himself has discussed quite powerfully in the speech that he delivered in Selma, Alabama earlier this year.

Our efforts, however, not been focused on a constitutional amendment but actually on getting Congress to walk the walk when it comes to their expressions of support for the value and liberty of individual Americans — and that is to pass the renewal of the Voting Rights Act. 

Q    And just real quick, coming back to the Chuck Schumer gun bill.  You said that there needs to be more public support out there, but is this something that you would foresee the President speaking up for, championing, the Schumer bill? 

MR. EARNEST:  Fred, as I mentioned to Chris, I haven’t seen the specifics of Senator Schumer’s proposal. 

Scott, did you have your hand up? 

Q    Yes.  In that speech at American University, President Kennedy talked about the need to not demonize the Soviets but sort of get inside their head and approach them as rational people sharing interests with the U.S.  Should we expect to hear some echoes of that in reference to Iran from the President tomorrow? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, obviously the relationship between the United States and Iran is different than the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union back in the early ‘60s.  I think what they have in common is that both countries were clearly adversaries of the United States.  

But the President has also been clear that in his dealings with Iran he’s been unwilling to rely on any trust with the Iranian leadership.  And in fact, what the President has said is his approach to this situation has been to distrust and verify.  And that’s why this deal would not have gone forward had Iran not agreed to cooperate with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program. 

And the reason for that is that this agreement requires Iran to make some significant commitments, including things like reducing their uranium stockpile by 98 percent, disconnecting 13,000 centrifuges, and essentially gutting the core of their plutonium reactor.  These are all significant commitments, and each of them is necessary before any sort of sanctions relief will be offered. 

So the stakes of those commitments are high, and the President is unwilling to just trust the Iranian regime that they’re going to follow through on those commitments.  In fact, the President will insist that the IAEA be given the access they need to verify that Iran has followed through with those commitments.  And once that has occurred, then sanctions relief is something that the international community is prepared to offer. 

Q    For all that skepticism, though, in his interview with Tom Friedman, the President talked about sort of empathy as being a key to this kind of diplomacy.  And I’m just wondering if that’s something that he’s going to talk about tomorrow. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I wouldn’t anticipate an extensive discussion about that.  And I think what the President was referring to in the interview is that — I do think it’s safe to assume that the reason that the Iranian regime reached the calculation that they should cooperate with the international community to obtain the sanctions relief is that they were under significant pressure because of the international sanctions that had been imposed on that country and on their economy. 

And that is a — that, at least, is a rational reaction of the leader of a country when sensing that the people of Iran are eager for greater economic opportunity to take steps that would expand that opportunity and allow Iran to, at least haltingly, more deeply engage with the international community. 

And that was a — I think in describing the motivations of the leaders of Iran, the President described those decisions that Iran — or that conclusion that Iran’s leaders had reached as a logical one.  But again, the President is not at all in a position of trusting Iran to follow through on these commitments.  The President has insisted that any agreement — that this agreement include verification of Iran’s compliance by the international experts at the IAEA.

All right, Rebecca, I’ll give you the last one. 

Q    Thanks, Josh.  On cyber, given questions from privacy groups and even DHS about the bill’s effectiveness and privacy protections, does the White House support the cyber information-sharing bill that could go to a vote in the Senate this week? 

MR. EARNEST:  Rebecca, the administration at the beginning of this year put forward a series of specific bills that we believed that Congress should pass to address our concerns about cyber security.  And these were three different pieces of legislation that we sent up there that included legislative language about what exactly Congress should pass. 

And one of those bills was information related to information-sharing that essentially would allow law enforcement officials and even national security officials the ability to more freely share information with the private sector about threats that they’re detecting in cyberspace and vice versa.  That private sector entities who are either the victims, or aware of attempted cyber malfeasants, could share that information with law enforcement and national security officials so that other private sector entities could adapt their computer systems to defend against those attacks. 

So we have gone to great lengths to try to encourage that kind of information-sharing.  And I as I understand it, that’s the goal of the bill that’s currently being considered by the United States Senate.  But for our exact position on the issue, I’ll follow up with you on that.  

But ultimately, that’s the goal that we have strongly supported for some time now.  And we’ve strongly urged Congress to take action in that regard, but let me get back to you on that specific piece of legislation. 

Okay.  Thanks a lot everybody.

2:09 P.M. EDT

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Secretary of ...

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:06 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Nice to see you all.  Happy Friday.  Let me do a quick announcement and then we’ll go to our special guest today.
On this coming Wednesday, next week, the President will travel to American University in Washington, D.C. to deliver a speech on the historic deal reached by the United States with — alongside our partners and allies to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  The President will continue his effort to make the case for why the Iran deal verifiably prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  He will lay out the enormous stakes in the current debate taking place in Congress, and describe why this diplomatic resolution is far preferable to the alternatives.
Many of you know, students of history, that 50 years ago President Kennedy spoke of a future defined by peace, not war, at American University.  And the President will also describe how this debate is fundamentally about U.S. leadership in the world and how we can lead global efforts to address threats like Iran’s nuclear program the way we did when President Kennedy made the case for diplomatic efforts to address the threat of nuclear weapons and avoid catastrophic conflict.
So that should make for an interesting day on Wednesday.  Now, joining me at the briefing today is Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz.  Many of you will recall his visit to the briefing room shortly after the completion of the political framework in Lausanne.  And we’ve been — since the announcement on July 14th of this final agreement, we’ve been trying to schedule his appearance here in the briefing room to discuss the deal and to answer your questions about it.  
But based on the President’s travel schedule and Secretary Moniz’s extensive visits to Capitol Hill, today is the first day that we could arrange that.  So I’m pleased to welcome him back here.  He’ll open with a quick statement and then stick around and take a few questions.
So, Secretary Moniz.
SECRETARY MONIZ:  My opening statement is that there are too many familiar faces here now.  (Laughter.)  Just very briefly, to reinforce what was just said — obviously, this agreement was focused on the question of nuclear weapons and Iran, and the President’s commitment — and what I believe will be a commitment of future Presidents as well — to make it clear that Iran will not have a nuclear weapon.  I believe this agreement provides us with a lot of tools to make sure that’s the case, or, if it isn’t, make sure that we find out in a timely way to respond. 
With that, I think I’m open for questions.
MR. EARNEST:  All right.  Who wants to go first?  Olivier.
Q    Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I’m wondering whether you can clear up whether it’s possible that Iran, anticipating the kinds of restrictions that this deal imposes, might have created yet another secret site that you haven’t detected with its own existing stockpile of atomic materials.  
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I think that’s really a question for our intelligence community, and I think what they would tell you is that we feel pretty confident that we know their current configuration.
Clearly, the deal, of course, is ultimately based on verification.  And as General Clapper said earlier this week, while we can never have 100 percent certainty that we know everything, this deal, this agreement provides tremendously enhanced insight into the program.  And certainly, over the years ahead, with the measures that we have taken and with the considerable international presence in Iran, we expect to provide the intelligence community with many more tools.
MR. EARNEST:  April.
Q    Secretary Moniz, because of our lack of information on the Iran nuclear program, could you talk to us about the insight that you will get, in layman’s terms, what you’re expecting to get if this deal goes through and you are allowed to walk in and see what’s there?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, we should really think about a verification system as opposed to, you know, just one element here, one element there.  They all work together.  I think the critical issues are, first, that we have tremendously enhanced presence at their nuclear facilities — if you like, their known or declared nuclear facilities.  That includes the most stringent containment and surveillance opportunities for the IAEA, including the use of advanced technologies.
Secondly, very important, is there is an unprecedented visibility into the entire uranium supply chain — all the way from uranium basically just getting processed, through centrifuge manufacturing, to conversion, to gas — I mean, you name it.  And I think an important part of that is that if Iran were to try to develop a covert program, they would have to recreate an entire fuel cycle — an entire supply chain, excuse me — beginning to end, in multiple locations, doing multiple technologies.  And one weak link in that supply chain and, shall we say, there would be a problem. 
So that’s very important — this entire supply chain.  Again, as I was saying earlier, it’s really about more tools for the intelligence community.
A third point I do want to emphasize is — because there’s been a lot made about the IAEA process with regard to undeclared sites — and that is that we have for the first time anywhere a fixed time period for resolution, and secondly, we remain very confident in our abilities to detect the signatures of any activity with nuclear materials.
Q    You’ve been spending a lot of time on the Hill talking with lawmakers, and you need a certain threshold of votes to block an attempt to override a veto on a legislative measure disapproving of this bill.  How many votes in the House and the Senate have you accumulated so far?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I don’t count votes.  I just try to explain the deal.  And we remain convinced that the more chances we have to explain exactly what the agreement is — and, of course not from me, but for the President, for the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of State to talk about the ancillary activities around regional security arrangements, then the more I think we will be able to carry the day.
Q    Iran has obviously long denied that they ever intended to develop a nuclear weapon, so this is all about civilian nuclear energy.  What is your sense looking at the Iran nuclear program as it exists?  Do you have any doubt in your mind that that nuclear program was established with the intention of developing nuclear bombs?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, a little historical perspective is that, of course, their nuclear energy program started many, many decades ago; in fact, prior to the 1979 revolution.  So they were definitely going for nuclear energy for quite a while.
Now, one of the things — and I will refer to my previous life as an academic analyzing nuclear power issues — we always said that the economics were not there for developing things like enrichment until you have the order of 10 nuclear power plants.
Now, Iran’s statement is that they are, in fact, planning for a program of that or even greater size, and that they are, in light of security of supply challenges, looking to develop capacity to provide fuel for at least part of that.  But that’s their statement.  We’ve said many times this is not an agreement based on trust.  If their statement were simply accepted at face value, they wouldn’t be under the sanctions regime in the first place.  There would not be IAEA reports already out there that talk about structured programs up to 2003 that were looking at technologies relevant to a weapons program.  So this is all about verifying.
So it’s all about — especially for the first 15 years –having dramatic constraints on their nuclear activities, but from day one, and forever, to having strengthened verification procedures.
MR. EARNEST:  Peter.
Q    Mr. Secretary, what do you say to the people of Israel who are convinced that this — although in the administration’s perspective would make that country more safe — does just the opposite in that there will be so much money now with the ending of the sanctions program that it will effectively put a bulls-eye on the state of Israel from the money that will go to many of Iran’s partners, like Hezbollah, Hamas and others?  Whether it’s a nuclear weapon or other forms of weapons, it’s still a bulls-eye, they think, that goes on top of their country and on their heads.
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, again, I think even though I will tire you by repetition, I do want to emphasize that this significantly rolls back all aspects of their nuclear program and adds to verification.
With regard to the funding — now, this is obviously not my lane, but I can certainly repeat what Secretary Lew has emphasized or went over again.  First of all, the resources to which Iran will have access is probably in the range of around $55 billion.  A lot of that is going to get tied up in a whole variety of areas, including their need to be able to finance international transactions, et cetera.  But as Jack has also said, obviously we’re not going to say that some of this funding will not go to their military. 
Q    So what do we (inaudible) —
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Yes, so it’s going to go there.  So what we say is I think what the President has said, what Secretary Kerry has said, what Secretary Carter said on Wednesday at the Senate hearing, is that we are going to have to redouble our efforts around regional security issues.  We’re going to have to confront directly and energetically the various areas in which Iran is generating instability or supporting terrorism.  And I think, in the end, we need to have a system that, without Iran — having the confidence of Iran not having a nuclear weapon, that we will be able to focus even more intensely on these additional security challenges.
MR. EARNEST:  Kevin.
Q    Josh, thanks.  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I want to ask you about the undeclared sites.  What are the verification mechanisms that will be at play when you’re monitoring these so-called undeclared sites?  How does that differ from the monitoring of the declared sites?  And if it happens that Iran is in some sort of a violation, material violation, is there sort of a mulligan, they get one, they get two, they get three — what’s the process before the international community does more than just sanction this regime?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, there’s obviously a huge difference between declared and undeclared sites.  I mean, in the former, we have — or the IAEA will have daily access using advanced technologies, increased number of inspectors, and the resources to, by the way, to carry that out.  Now, by definition, an undeclared site starts out with no monitoring because it was undeclared.  And obviously intelligence is the foundation of being able to point the IAEA to those locations.
Once that happens, then we have this defined process with a defined time frame for resolving it.  I would say that if you think in terms of possible violations of the agreement, clearly there is the opportunity for graded responses.  For example, the snapback of U.N. sanctions is termed in whole or in part.  So now comes the issue of, okay, what deserves a graded response versus a more robust response.
So, for example, one of the very important conditions of the agreement is the 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium for 15 years.  Well, if for a short time there happens to be a little imbalance there, that’s probably something that’s got to get corrected, but you wouldn’t call a material response to kind of bring down the whole 64 tons.  On the other hand, if there is nuclear activity — nuclear materials activity at an undeclared site, and that is found, I would consider that to be a very material breach and one that would call for a very, very strong reaction.
Q    Yesterday the President told supporters in a conference call that because so much money is being sent in opposition of this deal, a lot of members are really feeling the political heat, and some are getting “squishy.”  Are you experiencing that in your trips to Capitol Hill to talk to people?  And secondly, when you do come across — when the President does feel somebody is getting squishy, are you the guy he calls and says, get up there and firm things up?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I don’t know — he’s probably calling other people too, but I’m certainly getting enough calls.  He has to go up and speaking to many, many members.  And frankly, I welcome it.  And I’ve been very, frankly, pleased at how many members are really digging into the documents, both the public and the confidential documents that we have supplied. 
“Squishy,” I wouldn’t use that term, at least in my experiences in what I’ve seen.  I’ve spoken with many members after they have had visits, shall we say.  And I think what it has led them is to sharpen their questions and hopefully for us to sharpen our answers.  So that’s all we can do is continue the process of explaining exactly what this agreement is because I think it’ll stand on its own. 
MR. EARNEST:  Carol. 
Q    The IAEA Director General is set to meet with senators next week.  And based on your conversation with lawmakers and how much this side deal has raised concerns among them, do you think that that meeting will be enough?  And did the White House or the administration have anything to do with getting the Director General to the head to the Hill and meet with senators?  
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, I do want to just dispel this idea of secret side deals.  Again, just to make sure the record is straight on that, there is no secret side deal.  The agreement — the JCPOA agreement is that Iran will finally stop blunting the IAEA’s attempt to finish its PMD investigation. 
I do want to emphasize, somehow we think that this last visit to one site is kind of the whole thing.  This has been many, many years of activity, many reports; in fact, that’s what is responsible for a lot of the sanctions of the last years. 
So the agreement is — and this is not secret, this is public — Iran must respond by October the 15th in terms of providing IAEA all of the access it has asked for in their agreed-upon protocol.  Those protocols as a standard are called safeguards confidential between the country and the IAEA.  And the IAEA’s independence is very important to our long-term interests.  So it’s a standard safeguards confidential protocol. 
I’ll give you an example, by the way.  If you go back almost 25 years, the IAEA basically took apart the South African program.  Those documents all remain confidential.  That’s a standard.  So the issue is, IAEA negotiated with Iran, in confidential protocols, what would be the steps required for the IAEA to have satisfaction that it could finish the job and issue the final report on what happened; typically we’re talking like 12 years ago.  
So I think Amano will come; I think I’d welcome that.  And I should say, when I met with the Director General in Vienna a few days before the agreement was completed, he said then that he was going to be very happy to come and have discussions with the administration and with the Congress.  I’m personally quite pleased that he’s following up on that in a timely way.  I think it will be very helpful.  
MR. EARNEST:  Sunlen.
Q    Thank you Mr. Secretary.  You said you’re not responsible for counting votes, but you’ve spent a considerable amount of time on the Hill and in public and also behind closed doors meeting with members of Congress.  You also say you didn’t observe any of them getting squishy, as the President said.  What’s your level of confidence now on the Hill? 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I remain confident that this disagreement will go into effect.  I think ultimately if — certainly unless there are just too many closed minds, it was not — the thing which probably most disappointed me was all the opining on the agreement before it was reached.  
But I think as a long as there are open minds the agreement is very, very powerful in its constraints on the Iranian program and on its enhanced verification measures.  So I think as long as we keep at it and keep explaining that, and have others like Secretary Kerry, Secretary Carter, the President, reinforce our regional security commitments more broadly, I think that this deal will certainly go into effect. 
MR. EARNEST:  Jeff. 
Q    Mr. Secretary, I know some people see this as connected to the Iran deal and some people don’t, but there is some growing momentum in Congress for lifting the U.S. ban on oil exports.  Is that something that you would support, or is that something you have concerns about?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I find the linkage to be a little bit interesting.  I mean, I would note, first of all, a slight difference here that Iran is, after all, an oil exporter.  They’d like to be more of an oil exporter than they are today, obviously.  The United States remains an importer of 7 million barrels of crude oil per day.  So these are very, very asymmetric situations.  There’s a broader issue in general about American oil exports.  Obviously the Congress has been acting on that.  That’s a question for Secretary Pritzker. 
Q    Is that something you would support or encourage the administration to support? 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  It’s a question for Secretary Pritzker.  (Laughter.)  
MR. EARNEST:  Lynn. 
Q    Could you tell me how you’re talking — I understand you just had a meeting with leaders of major Jewish organizations before coming here, some who opposed the deal.  Can you tell me if you think you made any headway in selling the deal?  And what are the questions that you think are most formidable to persuading these leaders of Jewish groups who are opposed to it? 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, first of all, it was a very good meeting, and a number of the Jewish leaders came in from across the country.  So, I mean, it showed I think right there a very, very strong interest in really having a chance to discuss the agreement in depth.  
Make progress?  Again, I don’t like to make value judgments.  I can just say that it was a very good discussion.  Not surprising, these were people who were well-schooled in the agreement, but also had lots of clarifying questions to ask.  I felt that we made real progress in terms of clarification of issues in terms of how this agreement was ultimately good for our security and for the security in the region. 
A lot of the questions, some of the ones being asked here, what really — what’s the 24 days, what’s the IAEA arrangement — I would say a lot of it focused on these questions of verification because we all I think understand that those are central to this question of finding any covert activity. 
I think, for example, a point that we emphasized and I think had impact and had not been as fully appreciated is this idea of having transparency across the entire supply chain of uranium and how that significantly enhanced our capabilities to find anything outside that allowed supply chain.  So I think it was a very, very good meeting, and you are certainly correct that I think it was quite appropriate.  People came to that meeting with very, very different perspectives.
Q    Mr. Secretary, putting aside the the whole secret side deal allegation — 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  There is no secret side deal.  (Laughter.) 
Q    — as you have put it aside, what do you say to the folks who say we’re placing a lot of trust in the IAEA, in fact subcontracting out a decision about what American sanctions will be doing in the future?  Should we trust the IAEA to that extent?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  The IAEA is a — we’ve always trusted the IAEA.  The IAEA is an extremely competent organization, I might add, partly because at a place like Los Alamos National Laboratory we have courses that all of the IAEA inspectors take, for example.  And that’s been going on for decades.  We have — obviously, there are many, many nationalities involved in the IAEA safeguard’s activities.  A number of them are American, typically coming from our laboratories.  
So they will not be part of the inspection teams because of our lack of diplomatic relations, but they are a very competent organization.  What we have done is give them the tools they need to apply those talents, and, I might say, to expand their scope relative to other countries as well, hopefully.  For example, this issue of having verification opportunities literally for the uranium supply chain is something that they have sought in many — they would love to have.  They’ve sought it in other occasions unsuccessfully.  This will be the first time they’ll have that capability.
This is a period in which they will have — I mean, an agreement in which they will have the ability to deploy advanced technologies, enrichment-monitoring technologies — I might add, developed at our national laboratories.  Electronic seals — our laboratories have worked on that, et cetera, et cetera.
So I think it’s the issue — they are very competent.  They need to have the options at their disposal to deploy their tools.  This is what the agreement gives them.
MR. EARNEST:  Toluse.
Q    Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  I wanted to ask sort of a technical question about the Arak heavy-water reactor.  The original framework agreement said that the core would be destroyed, and I think the final agreement said that you all would pour — or that cement or concrete would be poured — 
Q    — into the core.  Is that the same as destroying it?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, so it renders it unusable in that or any future reactor.
Q    And is there a potential that if this deal breaks apart, that Iran would be able to get that core to — restart it or rebuilt in a way would get the — 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, clearly, if the agreement is rejected, then obviously — well, I won’t say obviously — I presume Iran would not take the steps required of it.  One of those steps is removing the calandria from that reactor, and then, in collaboration with the P5+1 — which includes the United States — to carry through an alternative design with an order of magnitude less plutonium production, and then build that reactor and, in addition, to send all of the irradiated plutonium-bearing fuel out of the country for the whole life of the reactor.
But if there’s no agreement, I don’t see — personally, I don’t see why they would do that.  They would presumably leave the calandria in and just finish that reactor, which is a major plutonium producer.
Q    How long does that process — or at what point in the agreement are they supposed to actually have done the redesign and taken — 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, the redesign — as the agreement says, a working group will be set up involving Iran and — well, involving the P5+1.  And that will go forward immediately.  And it’s not like there hasn’t been some work done on this; many of the countries’ technical teams, including our own — particularly the Argonne Laboratory, which is where a lot of especially research-reactor design goes on — we’ve already done modeling.  That’s why we have confidence in the basic parameters.
And if you look at the agreement, you will even find two pages of the parameter’s specification of the new reactor.  And then it would be, as expeditiously as possible, to go through design and then construction and commissioning of the reactor.
MR. EARNEST:  Victoria.
Q    In your meetings with lawmakers, among those who oppose the deal, have any of them come up with a credible alternative that they’ve suggested to you?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I’ve not heard one, to be honest — at least not one that has the same impact as the agreement does.  We have said — and again, I’m not the Secretary of State, but nevertheless I would opine that if we now undercut this agreement, it’s hard to see how there would not be very negative consequences, and very negative consequences that we would see very quickly.  The most important point here is — I think one of the most surprising elements of this agreements to many is the fact that the P5+1 could hang together through a tough, grinding negotiation over a long time, at the same time in which it’s very clear some members of the P5+1 have some other issues among ourselves.  And we all know I think who we’re talking about. 
And yet, there was tremendous cohesion there.  And I think a core underlying reason — and one that gives me some confidence that this cohesion will stick if there is any question about how Iran is implementing the agreement — is the P5 have a self-interest in preserving the nonproliferation regime.  Obviously, the P5 has a special role in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and so there is self-interest in seeing that this regime is executed properly.
MR. EARNEST:  Gardiner, I’ll give you the last one, then I’ll let the Secretary go.
Q    It’s an odd one.  Mr. Secretary, you’ve been seen as —
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I am too.  (Laughter.) 
Q    Well, I was going to ask about — you’ve been seen as one of the most effective spokesmen for the administration on this agreement in part because you cut a somewhat unusual figure in Washington.  You’ve got that slightly longer hair than the rest of us.  
SECRETARY MONIZ:  I’m leaving.
MR. EARNEST:  He means that in the nicest possible way.  (Laughter.)  
Q    Yes, it’s a compliment, sir.  So can you tell us what it is about bringing an academic to Washington, which is a somewhat unusual thing, that may have worked out in your particular case, and why you think that you have become the spokesman for this agreement that you’re now brought before us?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I would say a spokesman for the agreement.  But look, it’s an area that — as you know, this is — frankly, this is not part of — this was not part of my job description.  But obviously it was a fortuitous set of circumstances in the sense that this is an area in which I do have a lot experience.  Actually it’s not known but — here’s some news.  
Q    Bring it.
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Here’s some news.  1978 — you can look up the American Physical Society Report on Nuclear Fuel Cycles and Waste Management.  
Q    (Inaudible) reading? 
SECRETARY MONIZ:  It’s terrific.  I recommend it for insomnia.  (Laughter.)  And there’s a chapter in there on nuclear safeguards.  And frankly, I was the lead author of that chapter.  So this goes back to 1978, so I’ve been doing this a long time.  And I think the other thing is — I’ll be honest, there was a certain fortuitousness in the sense that Mr. Salehi is also — was an MIT graduate.  I didn’t know him then, but his thesis advisor is a very dear friend of mine, so we were able to have at least some kind of commonality of experiences, which probably helped moved the negotiation along.  Because as you know, these kinds of relationships are important there.
So I don’t know, whatever the case is, I’m happy to obviously assist the President and Secretary Kerry — to aid and negotiate would be to advance this agreement.
Q    And you brought MIT paraphernalia, I understand, to some of these negotiations.  Is that right, sir?
SECRETARY MONIZ:  Well, I mean, it was, again — I want to make it clear, this was not guile or anything else.  This was just — I have two grandchildren.  Mr. Salehi, his first grandchild was born as we were sitting at the table negotiating.  So it just seemed appropriate to connect his new granddaughter to his educational past.
MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Mr. Secretary.  
All right, we’ll take questions on other topics.  Or if additional discussion of Iran is warranted, we can do that too.
Josh, go ahead.
Q    On a different topic, I wanted to see what your response was with that of the President to this attack that killed a Palestinian toddler in a fire that has been blamed on Jewish individuals in Israel.
MR. EARNEST:  Josh, the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms last night’s vicious terrorist attack in the Palestinian village of Duma.  The arson attack on a family’s home in the dead of night resulted in the death of an 18-month old baby and the injury of three other family members.  We convey our profound condolences to the family, and extend our prayers for a full recovery to those were injured in the attack.
The United States welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu’s order to Israeli security forces to use all means at their disposal to apprehend the murders for what he called an act of terrorism, and bring them to justice.  We urge all sides to maintain calm and avoid escalating tensions in the wake of this tragic terrorist incident.
Q    And American intelligence agencies, including the CIA and the DIA, are saying that the Islamic State is essentially as strong as it was a year ago despite all of our massive efforts there, and that basically they’re replenishing it as quickly as we’re diminishing them.  Does the White House agree with that assessment from the intelligence agencies?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Josh, I think that an evaluation of the facts, and anyone with some memory about what’s transpired over the last 12 months would acknowledge that we’ve made important progress in our campaign to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  That’s undeniable, and there are a variety of ways to measure that.
One measure is that, over the last year, the U.S. coalition — the U.S. and our coalition has now hit ISIL with more than 5,800 airstrikes.  And that has resulted in the destruction of thousands of fighting positions, tanks, vehicle bomb factories, training camps, and even some ISIL fighters.  Our partners over the last year have made important progress on the ground when talking about Iraq.  We’ve frequently cited this statistic that ISIL has been driven out of, or at least is no longer able to freely operate in 25 percent of the populated areas that they previously controlled.  That’s an indication that their footprint has been reduced.  That’s quite a stark contrast to what was taking place one year ago today when ISIL was essentially operating and moving unimpeded across the desert in Iraq, even threatening cities like Erbil and Baghdad where there’s U.S. personnel.
You’ll recall that around this time, a year ago, there was a siege underway at Sinjar Mountain where religious minorities were trapped and ISIL fighters were threatening to slaughter them.  Since that time, operating effectively with fighting forces on the ground and backed by coalition military airpower, Sinjar Mountain is no longer — was not the site of a widespread slaughter like ISIL was threatening, and has been retaken by anti-ISIL forces.
There are a variety of ways to measure the progress that we’ve made in Syria as well.  I think we would acknowledge that the progress that we’ve made in Syria is not as significant as the progress that’s been made in Iraq.  But nonetheless, ISIL has been driven out of Kobani.  And we’ve talked quite a bit recently about the significant losses that ISIL fighters have endured across northern Syria, including in the key city of Tel Abyad.  And we’ve talked about the strategic significance of that city that had previously been a prominent — sort of the gateway to a prominent and important supply route for ISIL in Raqqa.  And that supply route has now been shut down.
I’ll remind you that there have been some prominent extremists taken off the battlefield in Syria as a result of our coalition efforts.  The President ordered a raid back in May in which a senior ISIL commander in Syria was killed, and a treasure trove of intelligence information was obtained and is currently being exploited.  And earlier this month, the Department of Defense announced the removal of a key al Qaeda-affiliated Khorasan group leader in Syria.  Obviously, that’s different than ISIL, but it is the source of the significant national security concern that the President articulated a year ago.
So that’s to say nothing of the important progress that’s been made on the political front in Iraq.  We have always indicated that progress on the political front was going to be critical to our longer-term success.  One year ago today, you had Prime Minister Maliki sitting comfortably in office, governing that country in a sectarian way that ultimately undermined the effectiveness of the security forces, but, more broadly, undermined the ability of the country to confront this ISIL threat.
Over the course of the last year, we’ve seen a new government take office, led by Prime Minister Abadi, who, thus far, has followed through on pursuing an inclusive, multi-sectarian governing agenda.  He has also extended that approach to the security forces, and that’s improved the performance of Iraqi security forces on the battlefield.
So I think there are a variety of measures to evaluate the progress that we’ve made against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria.  And the preponderance of those measures indicates that we’ve made important progress, but there’s no doubt that there is — there continue to be significant challenges in confronting ISIL and you noted one of them, which is that ISIL has continued to demonstrate some ability to continue to recruit fighters to their side.  And this is an important part of our strategy, and we obviously would like to see additional progress in confronting the flow of foreign fighters to the region, countering the radicalization strategy that they’ve pursued in social media, but also more effectively operating in these communities that had previously been taken over by ISIL to ensure that we can put in place some kind of stable governing structure that will make it more difficult for ISIL to recruit sympathizers to their side.
That’s a long answer but an important one.
Q    Josh, does the White House have any last-minute measures to help Puerto Rico ahead of an expected default this weekend?  And if not, are you concerned about the consequences of that now, in the aftermath of that expected default?
MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, as you know, the administration has for some time been trying to work with Puerto Rico and its local leaders as they confront some of the significant financial challenges that they face there in the commonwealth.  Puerto Rico is home to more than 3.5 million U.S. citizens who have persevered through a decade-long recession.  
And we have put in place — the President has directed the creation of a Puerto Rico task force.  And some of the President’s most senior economic advisors have been engaged in the work of that task force.  And obviously, Secretary Lew has been closely following the efforts of both Puerto Rico and this task force to confront some of these significant financial challenges.  
I know that there is a payment that Puerto Rico is scheduled to make I believe by Monday.  What we have said for some time is that there should be no expectation of a federal bailout, but there should be the expectation that the Obama administration will continue to work with Puerto Rico and their local leaders as they work through some pretty significant financial challenges.
Q    Are you concerned about the fallout if they do not make that payment, which is expected?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’d refer you to the Treasury Department for a specific economic or financial analysis of the consequences if that payment is not made.  But at this point, I would be reluctant to foreshadow what the consequences could be since, at least at this point, the payment is not due.
Q    Thank you, Josh.  Two questions, first on Puerto Rico.  Former Governor Luis Fortuno, an advocate of statehood, said that if Puerto Rico moved ahead with statehood, it would be a lot easier to resolve these problems.  And he recalled conversations he had with the President on this where he found him not committed on the issue.  What is the President’s position today on statehood for Puerto Rico?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, our position has been that this was a decision for the people of Puerto Rico to make.  And I know that there have been a series of structures that have been — political structures have been created over the last couple of decades to try to resolve this issue.  But our position continues to be that this would be a decision for the people of Puerto Rico to make.
Q    And I wonder if you could clear up one more thing on the negotiations with Iran.  At the President’s news conference in his memorable reply to Major, he said the question is, why did we not tie negotiations to their release — meaning the hostages; think about the logic that that creates.  And then he went on and explained it thoroughly.
The next day, Secretary Kerry appeared on the “Morning Joe” program and said that during the Iran nuclear talks — and I quote — “There was not a meeting that took place, not one meeting that took place — believe me, that’s not an exaggeration — where we did not raise the issue of our American citizens being held.”  And he said it was the last conversation he had with the Foreign Minister.  
It would seem, on the surface at least, the statements of the President and the Secretary of State are contradictory.  Could you explain it and clear it up?
MR. EARNEST:  I can, John.  And what we said, even while the negotiations were ongoing, the Secretary Kerry and other Americans frequently raised the case of Americans who were being unjustly detained in Iran with their counterparts on the sidelines of the ongoing negotiations.
And let me explain what that means.  It means there was never a situation in which American negotiators offered up these unjustly detained Americans as a bargaining chip in the ongoing negotiations.  It is our view that those Americans should be released without any condition so that they can return to the United States and be reunited with their families.  And that is — we continue to advocate for their release and we’ll continue to do that.
And the point — the President made an important point in the news conference in saying that the successful conclusion of the nuclear negotiations was, as all of you know, not at all a foregone conclusion.  In fact, there was some healthy skepticism about whether or not this would actually be completed, as evidenced by the fact that the negotiations weren’t completed until two weeks after the original deadline. 
So to suggest — had these individuals and their fates been tied to the successful completion of the nuclear negotiations and the negotiations not had yielded an agreement, it would have only set back our efforts to try to secure their release.  And that’s why the President made the prudent judgment to routinely — and as Secretary Kerry indicated, daily — make clear that the safe return of these American citizens is a top priority of the administration.  We were not willing to subject them to the back-and-forth bargaining that took place in the nuclear talks.  
Q    A couple on Gitmo.  Any more on when the plan will be made public?  
MR. EARNEST:  No additional timelines to share with you at this point. 
Q    And then, I think this is an obvious question, but does this plan envision the closing of the entire naval base, or just the detention center for suspected terrorists? 
MR. EARNEST:  Just the detention center. 
Q    The President, just a few hours ago in the Oval Office, called out Congress for — the House specifically — for leaving without having work done on the budget.  What conversations, if any, though, are the White House already doing to try to avoid a shut down once they get back?  What conversations are going on? 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Sunlen, what the President has done, and what he did back in February, is actually put out a very detailed budget proposal.  This is a budget proposal that fully funds our national security requirements.  It also makes the key investments that are critical to the success of our economy when it comes to expanding opportunity for middle-class families.  And the whole thing was paid for with some common-sense reforms to our tax code that would make our tax code both more fair and more straightforward. 
That’s the President’s responsibility, is to be clear and direct about what exactly his priorities are.  But ultimately, the Founding Fathers of our nation believed that it was important for Congress to have the power of the purse.  And this is a constitutional responsibility, the basic responsibility of anybody who goes to the United States Congress, which is to legislate and pass a budget for the United States of America. This is a constitutional, congressional responsibility.  
And the good news is that we have seen Democrats be very forward-leaning in their willingness to sit down at the negotiating table with Republicans in Congress to try to find bipartisan common ground.  That has been the formula for past success.  You’ll recall that in 2013 after the government shutdown was sustained for a couple of weeks, that there was a patch that was put in place, and then Paul Ryan and Patty Murray — so a leading House Republican and a leading Senate Democrat — sat down at the negotiating table and hammered out a bipartisan agreement.  It was certainly not a perfect agreement, and there were some aspects of the agreement that the President didn’t like.  But what it did do is it avoided a second government shutdown and it identified clear, bipartisan common ground where we could make investments above and beyond the sequester — investments not just in our national security but also in our economy.  
We believe that is a template for success.  And we believe that’s what Democrats and Republicans in Congress should do.  Democrats have indicated a willingness to do that, but we haven’t seen that same willingness from Republicans.  And that is a source of significant disappointment because we know what’s going to happen, we’ve seen this movie before.  The ending is not very good.  They’re going to come back in early September and they’re going to say, oh, my goodness, look at this, we only have three weeks before a government shutdown.  And they’re going to claim that they don’t have time.  
The fact is, that’s why it has been a source of such disappointment, that Republicans have resisted talking to Democrats to pass a budget.  So what the President indicated is he was hopeful that they would use at least a couple of the next 39 days that they’re on vacation to start having these kinds of conversations.  Even if they’re informal, even if they’re phone calls, or even if they’re around a table at the beach somewhere, that we can start having constructive conversations between Democrats and Republicans in Congress to ultimately arrive at a bipartisan budget agreement that doesn’t risk any sort of government shutdown.
Q    And you weren’t exactly clear on this part yesterday so I’m going to try another time.  
MR. EARNEST:  Okay. 
Q    Would you veto, though, a spending bill that includes defunding for Planned Parenthood? 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Sunlen, what we have indicated in the past continues to be true today, that we have routinely opposed the inclusion of ideologically driven riders in the budget process.  And certainly a rider that would, on a wholesale basis defund Planned Parenthood, which is the proposal of some Republicans in the House, is certainly something that would draw a presidential veto.  
Q    And has the President spoken directly with Senator Schumer over the Iran deal? 
MR. EARNEST:  The President has spoken to a substantial number of members of the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans.  But I don’t have any specific conversations to detail for you.  
Q    Josh, do you have any more information on the White House communication with Cincinnati officials after the indictment and charges for the police officer there — university police officer?  
MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific conversations that have occurred since the indictment was announced in the last day or two.  I know that over the last several days that Valerie Jarrett, the President’s Senior Advisor, has been in touch with the Mayor of Cincinnati.  But I’m not aware of any conversations that have taken place since the indictment was announced.  
Q    And lastly, apparently, Dylann Roff has pleaded not guilty to hate crimes charges for the Charleston shooting.  What does the White House have to say about that? 
MR. EARNEST:  This is a case that will be handled by the Department of Justice, and I know that they take the significant responsibility that they have very seriously.  And the President continues to have complete confidence in the skill and professionalism of our federal prosecutors, and we’re confident that this individual will be brought to justice. 
Q    I understand your comment which you just made, but the President went down, eulogized the pastor there, and he even — he didn’t use Dylann Roff’s name, but he brought it up.  And there were references to the Confederate flag and references to what he did.  I mean, he is pleading not guilty to hate crimes when we’ve heard from eye witnesses that there was pure racial hate when he conducted these mass killings.  So what do you say to that? 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, all I’ll say is — I want to be careful because I don’t want to say something that could be construed as influencing the criminal justice process.  The President has a lot of confidence in the criminal justice process — in no small part because of the skill and professionalism of our prosecutors. I will say that there has been ample evidence that has been presented publicly.  But what’s most important is for that evidence to be presented in a court of law and for the accused to be given all of the rights and responsibilities that the Constitution guarantees.  
But we know that our federal prosecutors take this case seriously and they’re committed to pursuing justice.  And we believe that’s exactly what they’re pursuing right now. 
Q    Coming back to the Planned Parenthood videos.  You’ve been asked several days — I wondered if you have an answer now on whether or not the President has actually seen any of these videos. 
MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t asked him that question point-blank, but I do know that he is aware of the news that those videos have generated.  
Q    And one of the — the central question here, of course, is whether or not Planned Parenthood was involved in the selling of fetal tissue for profit.  There sure seems to be a strong suggestion that was exactly what was being talked about on those videos.  Does the White House believe this should be investigated?  Obviously, the selling of fetal tissue, fetal body parts for profit is against the law.  Does the White House believe it should be investigated?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jon, what I will say is I know that — I haven’t seen the videos.  But those who have taken a close look at them have raised some significant concerns about their authenticity and whether or not they accurately convey the view of those particular officials, or even the broader institution.
The New York Times described this as a “campaign of deception.”  The Seattle Times described this as a “manufactured crisis.”  And The Mercury News even described those videos as “grossly misleading.”  
So the other thing that I alluded to yesterday is we have seen this kind of tactic be attempted by other extremist organizations that have an ideological agenda, and they marshaled what purported to be convincing and damning evidence that didn’t — that later did not prove to hold up to much scrutiny.  And I guess the scrutiny that these videos have gotten thus far from at least a handful of news organizations raises significant doubts about their authenticity.
When it comes to a specific determination that needs to be reached about whether or not any sort of criminal behavior or criminal action took place, that is obviously a determination that would be made by career prosecutors at the Department of Justice, and so I’d refer you to them for any decisions they feel like they need to make on this matter.
Q    But it seems like the thrust of your comments are critical on those that have brought this evidence out, not at the alleged underlying behavior, which could be, if true, criminal behavior.  I mean, does the White House believe that this longstanding ban on the for-profit selling of fetal tissues is something that should be enforced, and if there were a violation it should be prosecuted?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, of course, this is the policy and the law, and we think everybody should be following the law.  There’s also a question — 
Q    You’ve chosen to selectively prosecute —
MR. EARNEST:  Well, but there’s also a question of ethics.  And what Planned Parenthood has indicated is that their standards are consistent with the highest ethical standards that are out there.  
And again, there are significant questions that have been raised by outside organizations about the content of these videos, so I think that would explain the comments that I’ve shared here.  But when it comes to making decisions about either an investigation of possible criminal activity or charges being brought consistent with the suspicion of criminal activity, those would be questions for the Department of Justice.
Q    It sounds — one more — it sounds like you’re saying we should just believe Planned Parenthood because they’ve said that they’ve upheld the highest ethical standards.
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the standards that they say that they have in place are certainly relevant in this case.  And again, those who have taken a close look at the videos have raised some significant concerns based on their own observations about the authenticity of the videos.  But ultimately, I think the American people will take a look at the evidence and decide for themselves.
Q    But nobody here has taken a close look at the video.  I mean, you keep referring to people who have taken a close look, but has anybody here taken a close look?
MR. EARNEST:  I think it’s possible that people here have seen the video, but just based on the fact that it’s getting a lot of news attention.  But I haven’t.  I don’t know if the President has.  And I certainly know that there are a handful of people who I think can legitimately be described as impartial observers who have raised some significant concerns about the content of those videos.
Let’s move around.  John.
Q    Thanks, Josh.  Former Secretary of State Clinton is in Miami today.  She made a speech calling for the end of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.  It’s a position, of course, that the President also supports.  I wanted to read to you The Miami Herald’s editorial today regarding this issue and get your reaction to it. It’s not very long.  They write:  “We have yet to see any significant actions by the Castro regime that will benefit the United States or enhance the civil liberties and freedoms of the Cuban people.”  Do you disagree with that statement by The Miami Herald editorial board?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would — what we have seen, John, are some steps that the Cuban government has taken both in terms of releasing some political prisoners and giving the Cuban population greater access to information.  These are steps that the government previously resisted.  So I think that is an indication of at least some forward progress.
I think the other thing that I would acknowledge is that our expectation is that the kind of policy change that the President initiated just seven or eight months ago is something that is strongly in the best interest of both the United States and the Cuban people over the long term.
And what we saw is that the previous policy that was in place for more than 50 years didn’t yield any progress that anybody could point to in terms of changing the government’s posture in the direction of respecting and even protecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people.  And that is what prompted the President’s policy decision to change our policy toward Cuba, to begin to normalize our relations with Cuba and to even establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.  We didn’t see any progress over more than 50 years.  And well, if you’ve been trying something for 50 years and it didn’t work, it’s time to try something different.  And what we have tried to do differently has resulted in at least what could be described as some preliminary change and positive indications about the future.
One other data point that I would point to is that available data about the preferences of the Cuban people indicate that more than 90 percent of them support the policy change that the President has initiated.  So even if there are skeptics here in the United States, the President, who has the national security interest of the United States at heart, believes that this is the right decision for our country.  But it is certainly relevant that an overwhelming majority, a near unanimity of the Cuban people, agree that this is in the best interests of their country, too.
Q    The editorial board writers with The Miami Herald also write:  “The daily arrests, acts of repudiation and censorship of any person or group that questions the official line are still in place.”  Do you disagree with that particular sentence?
MR. EARNEST:  There is no doubt that there is significant progress that remains to be done.  And there are a number of additional steps we would like to see the Cuban government take to do a better job of protecting and respecting the basic human rights of the Cuban people, including those in Cuba who may have some political differences with the government.  And there’s no denying that there’s additional progress that’s needed.  And we believe that that progress is more likely and that we can be more effective in pressing for that progress by the Cuban government by more deeply engaging with the country and by reestablishing diplomatic ties to that country.
Q    Josh, thanks.  I want to follow up on Jon’s questions about the Planned Parenthood video.  You mentioned “grossly misleading,” “partisan,” when you talked about the writer.  You called it “ideological.”  You even said that there have been impartial observers who have raised questions.  Who are these impartial observers to whom you refer?  And can you understand why there are so many American people who feel like their voices should also be heard here at the White House?  Impartially speaking, there are people — whether they be Democrats or Republicans — who feel that what has been revealed in the video is grotesque, at a minimum, and if not criminal, worse?
MR. EARNEST:  Kevin, that’s why I’m pointing out to you that The New York Times has described the release of these videos as a campaign of deception, and the Mercury News —
Q    You’re not calling the Times impartial, are you? 

MR. EARNEST:  Of course I am, Kevin.
Q    But, Josh, seriously, you can’t say that the Times is impartial about all things vis-à-vis Planned Parenthood.  I’ve never seen them criticize Planned Parenthood for anything.  And yet you’re saying that they’re impartial somehow.
MR. EARNEST:  I’m going to resist the urge to raise questions about partiality of any news organization in this room, particularly in the context of this discussion. 
Q    Okay.  I’d also like to ask about the Clinton emails. Do you feel like the law is being applied equitably — especially when you consider what happened with the David Petraeus circumstance and how they basically went in there and they got all his information and took all of his computers.  In the case of the Clinton circumstance, the server, to this point, still have not been picked up by anyone in law enforcement.  Do you think that’s an equitable use of the law?
MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t judge the decision that’s being made by — about enforcing the law by the Department of Justice. If you have questions about that, you should direct it to them.
Q    Okay.  Then if I could follow up then on the emails themselves.  Is the White House confident, as more and more of them are revealed, that the Secretary of State — then-Secretary of State Clinton was right to predetermine that which she believed was classified?  Or does the White House believe that she should have done something different and let other people decide what, in fact, was classified information on her server?
MR. EARNEST:  The requirement for Secretary Clinton and for every other public official serving in the Obama administration is to ensure that in those instances where they use their personal email in the conduct of official government business, that they turn over those emails to agency officials so that they can be properly maintained, archived and used when — in responding to requests for information from either the general public or for the Congress.  And that is what Secretary Clinton has done.  And that’s what — those are requests that the State Department is currently attempting to fulfill.  
Q    Last, I want to ask you about Sandy Bland.  Any update on that in terms of a DOJ investigation?  It seems like the — I wouldn’t say the case has gone cold, but certainly there has been less news out of Texas about her untimely death.
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I understand that there actually was a commission that was formed at the state level just yesterday to take a look at the conduct of the Department of Public Safety officer, the state-level law enforcement organization there, and I know that there are some state legislators that are actively involved in those discussions.  I believe there was a hearing just yesterday on this matter.
The Department of Justice continues to monitor the situation, both the review that’s going on at the local level by the local prosecutor, but also the efforts that are underway at the state level to review the conduct of state law enforcement agencies as well.
Q    Any more details on the President’s speech on Wednesday?  Is this a daytime, evening speech?  Why is he doing this in this setting at this particular time?  And will there be anything new in the speech, meaning that you guys have talked about this a lot and he’s obviously talked about this a lot, a number of administration officials have — you’re delivering this in the middle of when people are typically on vacation, so how do you intend to break through?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Carol, we’ll have some more details on a number of those questions next week.  I can tell you that the President is looking forward to the opportunity to make a strong case about our broader national security interests, and how preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy advances those interests and advances the interest of our allies as well.  
I think the other thing that I alluded to in the opening statement is that this is also the venue where President Kennedy himself delivered a speech — I believe it was about 52 years ago — at American University where he talked about his efforts to try to use diplomacy to make a nuclear war less likely — in this case a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
So trying to advance our interests through diplomacy even when the threat of nuclear weapons is involved is something that has served our country well in the past, and the President believes that it will serve our country well in the future, particularly when it comes to confronting Iran and their nuclear program.  
Q    Josh, just to follow up on The New York Times — that was an editorial board.  You’re not putting an editorial piece in the context of impartial — by definition, that’s opinion.  It’s not — 
MR. EARNEST:  Is there a question?
Q    Yes, yes, yes.
MR. EARNEST:  I thought there might be.
Q    Just asking for a clarification on that point.  Are you putting that in the context of an impartial observation, since it is an editorial?
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I am.  I’m not saying that they don’t have an opinion, but I do think that these are individuals who can take a look at the facts and render an opinion.  And that’s what they do.  In this case, they called it a “campaign of deception.”  We saw FactCheck.org — if you want to raise questions about their credibility, ironically, you could do that as well — they described that as “unspinning the Planned Parenthood video.”
So I think the point that I’m making here is that I haven’t seen the videos, but those who have taken a look at it have raised some concerns about the content.  And ultimately, what the President believes is that — or our position on this is that if a Department of Justice inquiry is required, then that’s a decision that they will make.  And so for questions about that, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q    And as far as you’ve said defunding Planned Parenthood would be ideological.  Could one argue that even funding Planned Parenthood is ideological?  I mean, there’s a lot of community health services out there that would provide some of the same things — screenings, contraception even various health services that would not be nearly as controversial as Planned Parenthood, in terms of receiving federal tax dollars.
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Fred, I guess it’s relevant to point out a couple of things — that Planned Parenthood does provide a range of important preventative care and health care services, including health screenings, vaccines and check-ups to men, women and children across the country.  Millions of men and women visit Planned Parenthood centers annually.
The other thing that is true — and this applies to Planned Parenthood, and sometimes I think it gets lost in the debate — is that no federal funds, including administrative funds, are permitted to cover abortions or administer plans that cover abortions, except in the case of rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is endangered.  That’s been the federal law since the 1980s, and nothing has changed.
Q    And just lastly, this question keeps coming up — is there any reason to think that the President will watch the videos?  
MR. EARNEST:  Not that I’m aware of.  I don’t believe that he has that planned for his weekend.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  During a Pride celebration in Jerusalem yesterday, at least six people were stabbed, including a six-year-old girl who remains in critical condition.  Do you condemn the actions?
MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  And I believe those actions continue to be under investigation.  But this is a terrible act of violence and one that the United States would strongly condemn.

Q    In case Secretary Pritzker wants to know, what is the White House position on lifting the oil exports —  (laughter.)    
MR. EARNEST:  If she needs to solicit an opinion on this policy matter, she can do so in private. 
Q    What about if we want to know — (laughter.) 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have an opinion on this to convey to you.  This is a policy decision that ultimately will be determined by the Secretary of Commerce at the Department of Commerce.  And I don’t want to leave you with the impression that the White House would be totally left out of the loop, but if any communication is necessary in making that policy decision, that’s a communication that would take place in private.
Q    IHS came out with a study this week showing that gasoline prices, consumer gasoline prices tend to track international oil prices anyway, not the discounted domestic prices.  Would that be a relevant thing to consider in making that policy choice?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, ultimately that will be something for the Department of Commerce to figure out. 
Q    Thanks, Josh.  I have a question about The New York Times and Clinton emails.  So it was reported that both the Times and several other news organizations were told by the Justice Department that it was a criminal referral and that later emerged to not be the case.  Is the President concerned about the fact that you have — whether it’s accurate information or not — that members of the Justice Department are leaking things about an inquiry related to his potential successor and a former member of the administration?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Sarah, I think the — I’ve gotten in trouble when I’ve opined on the wisdom of relying on anonymous sources for important new reports.  So considering it’s Friday in July, I want to avoid offering that kind of advice again.  So I guess I would let all of you decide on that.  
The Department of Justice I think has gone to some length to try to help all of you understand exactly what’s happened in this situation.  And that certainly was made more difficult not just because the report relied in anonymous sources at the Department of Justice, but relied on anonymous sources elsewhere who I think one could logically conclude, maybe even impartially conclude, might have an axe to grind in this particular matter.
But ultimately, it is news organizations themselves that have to account for their own reporting, and they’ll have to account also for relying on what turned out to be questionable, if not misleading, anonymous sources for a really important story.  But ultimately, again, that will be something for news editors and media reporters to churn through, and I’ll let them do that on their own.
Q    Is it awkward, though, for the administration?  And has the President kind of said anything to Attorney General Lynch or people at the Justice Department about dealing especially with things related to Secretary Clinton?
MR. EARNEST:  No, I’m not aware of any of those conversations.  The Department of Justice, like other agencies in the administration, goes to great lengths to try to help you guys understand exactly what’s happening inside the administration and why it’s happening.  And in this case, the Department of Justice did work hard to try to help the news media and the American public exactly understand what was going on, and that was complicated by the fact that the original report was wrong.  But that didn’t prevent the Department of Justice from trying to work even on an on-the-record basis to help all of you understand what exactly the facts were.
Q    Josh, in the conference call last night, the President cautioned supporters not to repeat some of the same mistakes as Iraq.  How does the administration, when trying to sell the Iran nuclear deal, avoid the paradox that some fall into that the more that is known objectively — whether it’s by the IAEA, international community, or whatever — that the more is known, the less is trusted about the veracity of those reports?  That’s a paradox that international investigators fell into with Iraq, and that has to be the toughest sell for the administration, doesn’t it?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jared, I think I see it a little bit differently.  As it relates to this specific deal itself, I think the more that people understand the agreement and the commitments that Iran has made, and the nature of the most intrusive inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program, the more likely they are to support this agreement.  And that’s because they understand that this would effectively shut down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon.  And it would give us significant confidence, as Secretary Moniz described, that we had good insight into Iran’s nuclear program and could confirm whether or not they’re following the terms of the agreement that they committed to.
Q    The Iranians are a little bit annoyed with you.  I’m not sure if you’re aware of this.
MR. EARNEST:  I heard a little something about this.  (Laughter.) 
Q    — the IAEA about something you said regarding the military option still being on the table way down the line if the deal doesn’t work.
MR. EARNEST:  Did you wait until Olivier left to ask this question?  Because I was answering his question when they — 
Q    Oh was that his question? 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, it was.  It was.
Q    I’m wondering if you want — you would want to walk back those remarks, or you think they still stand.
MR. EARNEST:  No, I certainly stand by those remarks.  I wouldn’t have — I stand by those remarks.
Q    And just a clarification on the confidential protocol between Iran and the IAEA — who is aware of the contents of that protocol?
MR. EARNEST:  Our negotiators were briefed on the contents of that agreement.  And it is the basis of that briefing that we have made a commitment to sharing in classified setting that information with members of Congress. 
My understanding is that Wendy Sherman, who is the lead negotiator, is the individual who briefed House members in classified setting earlier this week.  And she has made an offer to brief members of the United States Senate in classified setting.  That leads me to believe that she is the one who was briefed by the IAEA about the contents of that agreement.  But you should ask the State Department directly, and they can confirm that for you.
Q    And just question — obviously, you can’t go into details about a confidential protocol, but can you envisage a situation wherein the IAEA would come to a broader conclusion about Iran’s nuclear — the intentions of Iran’s nuclear program without access to Iranian scientists or sensitive sites like Parchin?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Andrew, my understanding is that the IAEA has indicated that they will have access to all of the information that they need to write their report.  And I mentioned yesterday some — the irony of some Republicans in the United States Senate who claim that they’re not scientists and, therefore, can’t form an opinion about the reality of climate change, but yet, all of a sudden, they have the expertise of a nuclear physicist and can effectively determine what sort of access and information the IAEA needs in order to write their report.  So I think it’s — that’s why we don’t put a lot of — that’s why we don’t find those critiques from Republicans in Congress to be particularly credible.  
Toluse, I’ll give you the last one.  Then we’ll do the week ahead.
Q    You’ve mentioned a couple of different times that you think that members of Congress, as they go on this five-week vacation or recess, should be working for part of that or doing informal conversations.  What is the White House going to be doing to sort of reach out or make themselves available to talk about all the unfinished business?  Are you going to be calling Congress members back in their districts?  Are you going to be doing any lobbying for the various issues that are on the table?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Toluse, I might have been a little subtle when I was answering Sunlen’s question, so I’ll try to be more direct.  The White House has put forward a budget.  It was  — I believe it was February 1st that we put out a budget.  And if it were sitting here, it would be as big as a phone book.  So there is ample information and a very detailed proposal that the administration has already put forward when it comes to how we believe that the government should be funded. 
Now, if there are members of Congress who suggest that they really don’t want to do the work and they just want to pass our budget, we certainly would welcome them taking that step.  But my suspicion is that they would like to weigh in.  The good news for them is that our Founding Fathers have given the responsibility of maintaining the power of the purse, and ultimately it will be Congress’s responsibility to pass a budget.  
And so that’s why you’ve heard me say repeatedly that it’s the responsibility of Republicans in Congress to sit down with Democrats in Congress and find some common ground and put together a budget that can be passed well in advance of September 30th to keep the government open, and make sure that we’re funding the government at appropriate levels that are in the best interest of our economy and the best interests of our national security. 
The White House will certainly be available to facilitate those discussions, to offer technical advice, even to weigh in with our opinion if it’s requested.  But ultimately, when it comes to the responsibility of funding the government of the United States, the responsibility of the President is to put forward his own budget proposal — something that we did almost exactly six months ago — and it’s the responsibility of the congressional leadership to pass a budget that they send to the President’s desk before the end of the fiscal year.
And I’ll just remind you one last time that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, in the aftermath of the election, the day after the midterm election, in which it was confirmed that Republicans would be in charge of both houses of Congress, penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, and the headline was:  Now We Can Get Congress Moving Again.
Congress’s most basic function, their most basic responsibility is to pass a budget.  And what we know about the process is they’re going to — it’s going to require at least the support of some Democrats in the Senate in order for that budget to pass.  And that’s why we’ve been urging for months for Republicans in the House and Senate to sit down with Democrats in the House and Senate to try to find this bipartisan agreement.  And that has been something that Republicans have resisted.  And it certainly runs contrary to the promise that they made to get Congress moving again.  
Because they’re going to come back the second week in September — from their August recess, ironically enough — and they’re going to be worried about how they’re going to get all this work done in three weeks.  We’re worried about it, too.  That’s why they should start now.
And the work that they need to get done right now is to sit down across the table from congressional Democrats and try to find some common ground.  The one silver lining in all of this is this is exactly how they worked through these conflicts in the past.  And in 2013, there was this government shutdown, and in the aftermath of that government shutdown, Democrats and Republicans sat across the table from one another and hammered out a bipartisan solution.  And it was a solution that funded the government at appropriate levels above the sequester both for our national security but also for our economy. 
So there is a template that we should follow that’s been successful in the past.  But Republicans, like I said, thus far has resisted it.  And that’s been the source of the frustration that I expressed at the beginning of yesterday’s briefing and the frustration that the President expressed in the Oval Office when he was signing the transportation bill.
Q    The President, on the call yesterday, mentioned the $20 million effort against basically to reject the Iran deal.  I’m assuming that effort will reach its peak during this recess as we get closer to the deadline of when Congress has to either approve or reject the deal.  What is the White House going to be doing to sort of counter that huge influx of money and advertising against the deal for the public?
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the President convened the call yesterday with Americans all across the country because of his belief in the power of grassroots organizing, and that there are people all across the country who have been following this issue and are concerned about making sure that we don’t engage in a rush to war, that we’re much more focused on trying to use every element of American authority, including our diplomacy, to try to resolve questions that are critical to our national security. 
And in this case, the President has done exactly that.  The President has used his influence around the globe to build an international coalition to confront Iran over their nuclear program.  They put in place sanctions that we coordinated with the rest of the global community and some of the — including the largest economies around the world; put intense pressure on Iran, compelled them to come to the negotiating table.  And in the context of those negotiations, they voluntarily agreed to shut down every pathway they have to a nuclear weapon, to reduce their nuclear stockpile by 98 percent, to detach 13,000 centrifuges, to essentially render harmless the heavy water reactor at Arak, and to agree to the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.  And that represents important progress. 
And it is — by following through on this diplomatic agreement and working with the international community to implement it and enforce it is not just the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; failing to do so only makes another war in the Middle East more likely.  
And that’s why the President has advocated so strongly for this agreement.  That’s why he’s going to continue to do that in the days and weeks ahead.  And that’s what we’re going to encourage Americans all across the country to do — to talk to their friends and neighbors, to talk to their coworkers and to talk to people at church — to explain to them exactly what’s included in this agreement and why we believe it’s something that should earn the support not just of people all across the country, but also of every member of Congress.
All right.  So with that, why don’t I do the week ahead, and you guys can begin your weekends. 
On Monday, the President will address the second class of 500 Mandela Washington Fellows at the Young African Leaders Initiative Presidential Summit.  The Young African Leaders Initiative, launched by the President in 2010, connects the United States to the next generation of leaders across sub-Saharan Africa and provides them with the leadership skills, networks, and professional opportunities that will allow them to make a meaningful impact in their countries and communities.  The three-day summit will bring together 500 of sub-Saharan Africa’s most promising young leaders to meet with the President and leading U.S. entrepreneurs, government officials, and civil society representatives.   
The event will be a capstone to the President’s trip to Africa, where he affirmed his commitment to young people across the continent and entrepreneurial approaches to common challenges. 
On Tuesday, the President will host United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in the Oval Office for a bilateral meeting.  In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks at the White House Demo day — and we’ll have more details on that over the weekend.  
Q    White House what? 
MR. EARNEST:  Demo Day. 
Q    D-e-m-o? 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, Demo. 
Q    That’s not short for demolition? 
MR. EARNEST:  I think it’s short for demonstration.  White House demolition day is a different event.  (Laughter.)  But an event I’m similarly looking forward to.  (Laughter.) 
On Wednesday, the President will deliver a speech on the nuclear deal reached with Iran at American University here in Washington.  
And then on Thursday and Friday, we anticipate the President will be here at the White House, but we’ll have some more details on his schedule early next week. 
Q    AU is daytime, nighttime?  
MR. EARNEST:  We’re still working through the details of this.  I anticipate at this point that it will be during the daytime.  We’ll keep you posted. 
All right.  Everybody have a great weekend. 
2:29 P.M. EDT

Remarks by the President and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon After ...

Oval Office

**Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk.
12:01 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  It is a great pleasure to welcome once again to the Oval Office my good friend, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.  
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, we can take great satisfaction in the success of the institution in resolving conflicts, in moving forward through its agencies on a whole range of development issues that are helping vulnerable peoples around the world.  At the same time, we are in a period in which the demands placed, the burdens on the United Nations have never been greater.  And throughout what was a very tumultuous process, the Secretary-General and his team I think have done excellent work and have been excellent partners with us.  
Today, we spoke about a wide range of issues.  At the top of our list was the urgency of a world response to the threat off climate change.  And the Secretary-General has been a consistent champion of a concerted, unified, global response to the issue.  I shared with him the work that we are doing with the United Nations so that we can be a leader in addressing this critical — perhaps the critical issue that faces humankind going forward, and explained how through our power plant rule, through the work we’re doing on renewable energies and so forth, that we’re in a position now to meet the very aggressive targets that we’re putting forward in preparation for the Paris conference.  
And I encouraged the Secretary-General to continue to work with us to press those countries who have not yet put forward bold, aggressive plans to do so — because we need Paris to be a success, and the world has to step up in a concerted way on behalf of our children and future generations.
We also had an opportunity to discuss a range of regional issues.  In Syria, we shared our deep concerns about the humanitarian crisis there, as well as the need to stop the killing and arrive at a realistic political process that can lead to a stabilizing of the country and a transition to a government that is reflective of all the people of Syria.  And we traded notes on how our diplomatic teams can work together with other interested parties on that issue.  
We also discussed the need to end the conflict in Yemen and address the humanitarian situation there.  We discussed some modest progress that’s been made in Libya in bringing together the many factions that have created great difficulty in governance in *Yemen Libya and have created a vacuum that is causing everything from an outflow of refugees to the safe havens for organizations like ISIL. 
And we discussed South Sudan.  As many of you know, when I was in Africa, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting with the leaders of the countries surrounding South Sudan.  It was several years ago where South Sudan was recognized as an independent country, and there was great progress and great hope at that time.  That hope has been squandered by Mr. Kiir and the opposition leader, Mr. Machar.  Our goal now is to make sure that by August 17th there’s an agreement for them to stop the bloodshed and to move forward in an inclusive government.  If they miss that target, then I think it’s our view that it’s going to be necessary for us to move forward with a different plan and recognize that those leaders are incapable of creating the peace that is required.
On a more positive note, we have now completed the follow-up on the Millennium Development Goals that had been set.  We now have a new set of sustainable development goals as well as financing for those goals that had been agreed to through a process of international consensus.  And they reflect I think the newest and best thinking about how we can lift people out of extreme poverty and not just provide aid, but also increase capacity with a strong emphasis on making sure that women and girls are lifted up in the process, and making sure that we’re emphasizing clean energy, sustainable energy, education, entrepreneurship, and small- and medium-sized businesses.
And I’m very encouraged by the process and belief that was shown by the United Nations and all the counties involved.  What we saw was I think far less emphasis on some of the traditional North-South divisions on the international stage, and much more of a focus on how do we get the job done and deliver on behalf of the people.
And finally, we had a discussion about how we can work with the United Nations to provide them more support for the demands that are being made to them.  Specifically in September when we have the United Nations General Assembly and leaders are gathered, we really want to make the most of the summits that are being organized around not only countering violent extremism and sustainable development, but also peacekeeping, and are there ways in which we can strengthen the resources that are required in order for us to do an effective job on conflict resolution but also stabilization post-conflict, where the United Nations plays an enormous role.  And we have to have greater continuity and greater capacity for these U.N. peacekeepers, because unfortunately I don’t think we can anticipate that all these conflicts are going to be going away anytime soon.
So I again want to thank the Secretary-General for his outstanding leadership, and I look forward to seeing him in September.  We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then, but I’m very confident that he and his very capable team will be able to do what needs to be done.
Thank you very much.
SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN:  Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm welcome to the Oval Office again.  I had an extremely constructive meeting with President Obama this time on the eve of a truly historic General Assembly in September and in the aftermath of all these very historic diplomatic achievements that President Obama and the U.S. government have been making in many areas like the Iranian nuclear deal and normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba, and his recent very successful visit to Africa.  And all these are truly historic diplomatic achievements.  
The United Nations continues to stand working with you and the U.S. government.  We really appreciate your strong leadership and support, and strong, generous humanitarian assistance to many places of conflict.  And I really count on your strong support.
On climate change, I highly commend President Obama’s strong commitment since day one in his office up to now, and I count on your continuing leadership until we’ll be able to address at this one — this climate change — and have climate change meeting in December, in Paris.  
I’d like to congratulate you and highly commend your visionary and forward leadership announcement of yesterday on a Clean Power Plan.  This is hugely important and visionary leadership.  The U.S. can and will be able to change the world in addressing a climate phenomenon.  And we are the first generation, as President Obama rightly said yesterday, to put an end to global poverty.  And we are the last generation who can address climate change phenomenon.
I think this Clean Power Plan powers economies and generates jobs.  And also, it can have — generate huge dividends here at home, in U.S. economy.  And I’m sure that this will impact other countries.  And I really appreciate your personal engagement starting with China and Brazil and India, and many others, as I’m going to have some small-scale leaders meeting on the margins of the General Assembly.  I hope you will really lead all this campaign under your strong leadership.
We are very committed.  We discussed about how to mobilize $100 billion for climate financing, and working very closely with President Hollande in his capacity as President of future COP 21, and Chancellor Angela Merkel in her capacity as chair of G7, and World Bank President and IMF managing director, and we, the Secretary-General.  We are really trying to present a politically credible trajectory of $100 billion to the world so that this can be supported at the COP 21 in Paris.
This is a top priority now as we have successfully agreed on a sustainable development agenda with a set of 17 sustainable development goals.  This is hugely ambitious and encouraging news.  And we also agreed in just about the last month a financial and technological framework to support a sustainable development agenda and climate change.  On all these matters, we really count on your strong support.  
On regional issues, President Obama has explained and briefed all what we discussed.  We are completely on the same page.  On Syrian issues, on 29th of July — last week — my special envoy and I presented a proposal to establish a four thematic working group to operationalize a Geneva communiqué, and I there was encouraged to find such strong support by the Security Council members.  We tried to expedite — to provide some political solution to this, operationalizing Geneva communiqué.  At the same time, we are doing our best effort to provide humanitarian assistance to needy people.  
On Yemen, there is no military solution, there is only solution by political way, through dialogue.  I have been continuously coordinating and working together with GCC members led by, again, the Saudi Arabians.  And my special envoy is always in the region working very closely with the parties.  
We are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, as President Obama said.  Eighty percent of the population — to be exact, more than 21 million people — are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.  Our humanitarian team, despite the difficulties of security and safety, will be mobilizing all possible support.  I’m urging the world members — member states — to provide generous humanitarian assistance.  This is what I’m really asking for such generous support.  
I highly appreciate and commend the leadership of President Obama on South Sudan.  His recent visit to Africa and convening a leaders meeting on South Sudan really made a big impact.  We are working very hard with the IGAD members and African Union so that this August 17th summit meeting of IGAD will be able to have adoption of this agreement between the parties.  We are working very hard.
And I really appreciate your strong support for human rights.  In all these conflict areas, it is the people whose human rights are being abused.  And we are taking human rights up front as priority issues, and I really appreciate the United States continuing support and leadership.
Again, thank you very much, Mr. President, for your global leadership.  And I wish you continued success.  Thank you.
12:17 P.M. EDT

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/3/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

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

12:50 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Happy Monday.  I’m glad to see that the month of August did not dissuade you from participating today.  So appreciate you making it.

I don’t have any announcements at the top, Josh, so we can go straight to your questions.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  In Texas, the attorney general, Ken Paxton, has been charged with a felony and booked into jail.  And I know that you tend not to weigh in on criminal investigations, particularly those in states, but in this instance, this attorney general has really been the driving force behind the legal challenges to the President’s immigration policies and has really been a thorn in your side on some other environmental issues, including the Clean Power Plan.  So I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about how his criminal investigation may affect the President’s agenda.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Josh, I heard about the news reports of this particular legal matter only recently, so I wouldn’t weigh in on what appears to be an ongoing investigation.  The Department of Justice continues to be an aggressive advocate for the President’s policies, including the executive actions that the President took at the end of last year to bring some much-needed accountability to our broken immigration system.

And there has, in fact, been a concerted partisan effort to try to undermine the implementation of those rules.  But we continue to aggressively advocate in the courts to continue the implementation of those rules, and we’re going to do that regardless of any sort of legal problems that may be faced by some of the plaintiffs.

Q    And on the Clean Power Plan that you’re going to be discussing, the President will be discussing later today, already a lot of reaction from both sides of the aisle in the presidential race.  And one of the things that seems notable about what the Republicans have been saying is they’ve been making some specific criticisms about costs or other factors that they don’t like in this, but they seem to be shying away from the kind of blanket ignoring of climate change as a problem that you have discussed it being the way that they had in the past and that you pointed out they had in the past.  So I’m wondering if you see a shift there, and whether Republicans seem more willing to embrace the issue as an issue, even if they don’t like your specific plan.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Josh, that’s an interesting observation.  I had not reached that conclusion.  It sounds like you may have studied some of these statements from the candidates more closely than I did.

But look, if acknowledging that you have a problem is the first step in trying to solve it, then we welcome the renewed interest by Republicans in confronting this issue.  The fact is, this is an issue that politicians in Washington have been putting off for too long.  And in this case, I think they have a decent excuse, which is there are some tough choices.  And one of the challenges that we have in our political system is getting our system oriented to focus on addressing problems over the longer term.  And the fact is, that is what has contributed to this becoming a more significant problem over the years.  

And in some ways, this is exactly the kind of issue that the President ran for this office to address.  In 2007 and 2008, much of the President’s rhetoric was directed toward changing business as usual in Washington and confronting the tough issues.  And this is a great example of that.  And that is why you heard the President himself describe this issue, or these rules as the most significant steps that our country has ever taken to fight the causes of climate change and to curb carbon pollution.  

One of the other reasons that we may see at least a slightly muted response from some Republicans is that in designing this rule, the administration has focused on the successful implementation of the rules.  That is why this is all geared toward setting targets that states must meet, but also giving states ample opportunity and freedom to design a plan that will allow them to meet those targets in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the people in their state.

One of the other things that you’ve seen is, since this proposed rule has been made final, the Environmental Protection Agency has considered 4 million different comments from the public about the initial proposed rule that was put forward.  And that’s why in the final rule you see that states have a full year under which they can submit their plans.  We’ve also given states a couple of additional years to begin implementing those plans, all while preserving the incentives that exist on the front end for states to continue to make investments in renewable energy that we know can be good for the planet, can be good for our economy, and can actually save consumers on their utility bills. 

So the approach that we have taken has been to maximize the likelihood of successful implementation.  And that should be an indication to you that this administration is not so much worried about the politics, but actually worried about trying to get these rules right.  Because implementing these rules accurately and successfully will allow us to achieve a significant economic benefit for us to protect public health in a way that we can reduce incidents of asthma and reduce the number of asthma attacks, and also save consumers on their utility bills.

So if successfully implemented, this could benefit the American public in a variety of ways.

Q    And a number of industry groups that are planning to sue the administration over this rule have written already to the administration today asking you to put the rule on hold while those legal challenges play out.  Will the administration grant that request?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any consideration to do that.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  I wanted to ask you about President Obama’s decision to defend Syrian rebels with air power, even though it’s loyal to the Assad regime.  Is the U.S. concerned that it’s deepening its role in the Syrian conflict, or raising the risk of a direct confrontation with Assad?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me answer that question in a couple of ways.  That first is that the train-and-equip program that the President announced almost a year ago now has been focused on preparing adequately vetted Syrian opposition forces to counter ISIL.  And we’ve indicated that a critical element of our counter-ISIL campaign is finding partners who can take the fight to ISIL on the ground.  The President has said, even in the face of criticism from some Republicans, that he’s not willing to commit a significant number of U.S. military personnel on the ground in a combat role in either Iraq or in Syria.  And we’ve acknowledged for some time that we had a little bit of a head start in Iraq because we had a central government in Iraq that was willing to pursue a multi-sectarian agenda and to lead the military in a multi-sectarian and inclusive way.  And that meant that we did have a fighting force on the ground in Iraq that the United States and our coalition partners could partner with.

And we have seen significant progress in terms of rolling back ISIL gains inside of Iraq.  And the latest statistic is that up to 25 percent of the populated area that was previously controlled by ISIL is now an area — are now locations where ISIL can no longer enjoy freedom of movement.  

The story is a little bit different in Syria because there is not a fighting force on the ground with which the United States has been — the United States and our coalition partners has been able to partner with.  We have had some success in partnering with some Kurdish groups on the ground inside of Syria, and we’ve made progress against ISIL, particularly in northern Syria.  But building up the capacity of a force of opposition fighters is something that we’ve been focused on for quite some time.  

And the goal of training and equipping those opposition fighters has been to focus our efforts on ISIL.  And at the commencement of our campaign against ISIL, you’ll recall that the United States sent a clear signal to the Assad regime that they should not interfere with our ongoing counter-ISIL efforts, even inside of Syria.  And that same admonition applies when it comes to the activities of these new Syrian fighter — or new Syrian forces on the ground that have been trained and equipped by our coalition. 

And there are already steps that our coalition has taken to protect these counter-ISIL fighters from attacks, and we’re prepared to take additional steps, if necessary, so that these fighters who are put on the ground to fight ISIL can succeed in that mission.

Q    Unrelated — over the weekend, there were reports that the U.S. Olympic committee — sorry, not U.S. — the Olympic committee is looking at U.S. cities, three U.S. cities to take the place of Boston, since they dropped their bid.  The President did not publicly campaign for Boston to be considered.  Would he do that for another city?  Or is it now his policy, since he was not successful in getting Chicago to be considered — is it his policy to stay out of any campaigning for American cities to host the Olympics?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think once the U.S. Olympic committee has selected an American city to bid on the — I believe it’s the 2024 Games, I’m confident that the President will be supportive of a U.S. bid.  It sounds like there’s still some work to be done to determine exactly which city will mount that effort.  But if the President would willingly lend his support to that bid.

Q    Would he go so far as to — actually, at that point, I guess maybe he could be out of the White House.  But when he was campaigning for Chicago, he went so far as to travel — meet with an international body and put his public support behind that.  Is that something that he’s refraining from doing, since he wasn’t successful with Chicago?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t say that.  I don’t know where they are in the process either, and I don’t know exactly when those bids will finally be considered by the international Olympic committee.  But certainly once the U.S. OC has selected an American bid city, I’m confident that the President will be strongly supportive of that American bid.

Let’s move around a little bit.  Nadia.

Q    Just to follow up on Syria — so basically you’re saying there is an agreement between you, the United States government, and the Syrian regime not to attack the opposition that you are training because they’re fighting ISIS?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would not describe it as an agreement.  In some ways, I would describe it as an admonition — one that we directed to the Assad regime at the very beginning of this effort last fall, where U.S. officials made clear to the Assad regime that they should not interfere with our ongoing counter-ISIL efforts inside of Syria.  At that point, we were principally referring to any temptation that the Assad regime may have to interfere in the air campaign against ISIL inside of Syria.

What I’m suggesting is that that same admonition that the Assad regime should not interfere in our counter-ISIL activities also applies to the opposition fighters that we have trained and equipped to fight ISIL.  So far, the Assad regime has followed that admonition from the United States, and we encourage them to continue to do so.

Q    So what will happen when these Syrian groups that you are training are engaged with the Assad forces?  How can you stop that?  And it’s not a theoretical question.  I mean, it could happen.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the fact that it could happen is a hypothetical.  At this point, it has not.  And we have made clear that these fighters have been trained and equipped to participate in the counter-ISIL effort.  And our coalition has been involved in that train-and-equip effort, and our opposition will be engaged — and our coalition will be engaged in protecting their ability to take the fight to ISIL on the ground.  And that means protecting them so that they can carry out that fight against ISIL.

Q    On Syria again, you often say that the Assad regime has no future in running the country.  And now there is talk that the Russians and the United States, and maybe Gulf countries are meeting in Doha as we speak with Secretary Kerry, that they will discuss a plan whereby Assad will be part of the coalition.  Does this contradict your stand, or this is a new development, a new strategy regarding Syria?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nadia, what we have made clear is that because of the frequency with which the Assad regime has used the military power of that country and directed it at Syrian citizens, that President Assad has lost the legitimacy to lead that country.  That has been our policy for some time, and that continues to be our policy today.

What we have tried to do for years, and admittedly with not a lot of success, is to facilitate a sustainable, durable political process that would allow a transition, a leadership transition, to occur inside Syria.  And we’ve worked hard to try to bring the opposition together, sit them down at the negotiating table to make a determination about this political transition, and we have not made a lot of progress on that.  But we continue to believe that that actually is the way to resolve the situation inside of Syria.

The chaos — the political chaos that has persisted inside of Syria for so long is what’s allowed extremist organizations like ISIL to gain a foothold in that country.  And to try to bring that violence to an end, we certainly need to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  But to solve this problem over the long term, we need to bring about a political transition inside Syria.

Q    Sorry to push again, but he’s an ally with you against ISIS, but he’s not an ally with you when he’s fighting his own people and killing Syrians?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I would *not describe him as an ally in our fight against ISIL.  Certainly he has indicated, and even ordered, some military action against ISIL fighters.  But we’ve made clear that the Assad regime should not interfere in the ongoing efforts of the United States and our coalition partners to execute a strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.


Q    Iran.  The President has a big speech planned this week that we already know about.  Can you fill us in beyond that on kind of how he’s going to pace himself through the month of August?  And maybe since this week is right in front of us, is he doing daily calls?  Is he talking to individual members of Congress?  Is he letting the pro-deal, lobbying interests work their way first?  What’s he doing?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President is — I don’t have any specific telephone calls to tell you about, but the President over the course of this week will continue to be in touch with individual members of Congress on this particular issue.  House members have left Washington, as we talked about a little bit at the end of last week.  But United States Senators remain, so I certainly wouldn’t rule out additional conversations or meetings with members of the Senate.

I also would anticipate that the President would be in touch with other stakeholders who have shown an interest in this particular issue.  I can tell you that tomorrow the President will convene a meeting with the leaders of some prominent Jewish American organizations who have shown a particular interest in this issue, primarily because of their concern about its impact on the national security of the nation of Israel.  The President will come prepared to make a strong case that all of you have heard about how he believes that this historic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon isn’t just in the best interest of the United States, it’s clearly within the national security interest of our closest ally in the Middle East, Israel.  And the President will have the opportunity to talk to them about that.

But the other thing, Margaret, I think that is notable is that we’ve made some important progress and are building up some momentum on Capitol Hill, and that over the last 48 to 72 hours, we’ve seen some notable names come out in support of the agreement.  This includes Iraq war veteran, Seth Moulton, from Massachusetts, who talked about his firsthand experience fighting a war in the Middle East — led him to conclude that this agreement makes a future war in the Middle East at least less likely.  We also saw powerful statements from Adam Schiff, who’s the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee — somebody who initially described himself as a skeptic of the agreement, who, after hearing the administration’s case, came around to supporting the agreement.  And even Senator Warren indicated her strong support for this deal.  And that’s an indication that we’re building some momentum on Capitol Hill.

But as you’ve heard me say, we’re not taking any of these votes for granted.  And the President and other senior members of his national security team will continue to make this case not just through the remainder of this week, but over the course of this month.

Q    And the leaders tomorrow, is that the kind of usual — is that the donor group or is that the organization’s group, or is it both in one?  And is it at the White House?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have a list of those who will be attending, but we’ll get you some more information about this.

Q    Can I just slide in one more question? 


Q    You may have heard over the weekend a flurry of speculation about whether the Vice President was going to run for President.  

MR. EARNEST:  I did hear a little bit about that.

Q    So has the President talked to him since that flurry of speculation?  And did this come up?  And can you kind of articulate for us, in light of the coverage over the weekend, how the President intends to handle either private discussions with him about it or public speculation between now and September when he decides?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I would anticipate is that the President will keep his private discussions with the Vice President of the United States private.  And so I don’t have a lot of insight to share with you about either the Vice President’s thinking or his discussions with the President on this issue.

What the Vice President has said publicly is that a possible campaign for the presidency is something that he’s considering, and he anticipated that he would make a decision by the end of this summer.  And so obviously we’re in the first week of August and we’re getting closer to the end of the summer, but we’re not there yet.  And somebody with the extensive experience of the Vice President, and somebody who has made such a significant contribution to the safety and prosperity of his country should be afforded the opportunity to make that decision on a timeframe that he chooses.  And it sounds like that’s exactly what he’s doing.


Q    Back on Iran.  The President seems to have gotten the support that he wanted from the Gulf States — that Secretary Kerry came out of those meetings and there’s at least tacit vocal support for the deal.  So, one is, what is the White House’s reaction to that?  And two, does that undercut the argument being made by groups such as APEC and others who are saying that this agreement is a threat to the U.S.’s Middle East allies?

MR. EARNEST:  Carol, I saw this right before I came out here, too.  And this is what I think is a rather rough translation of the comments from the Qatari Foreign Minister.  And he said, just in part, all the efforts — referring to the effort to negotiate an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 — that have been exerted make this region very secure and very stable.  And that’s an indication, at least on the part of the Foreign Minister of Qatar, that completing a diplomatic agreement to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is in the security interest of at least the nation of Qatar.  

And the President is certainly aware of the impact that this agreement would have on the national security not just of our closest ally in the region, Israel, but also on our partners in the Middle East that are often subject to some of the destabilizing activities of Iran and their proxies in the region.  And that is why the President convened a meeting with some of the leaders of those countries at Camp David earlier this summer to discuss how the United States could deepen our security cooperation with the GCC countries.  And much of that discussion centered on how the GCC countries, with the support of the United States, could better coordinate their own security activities.

And one of the things that was discussed was trying to put in place anti-ballistic missile technology and capabilities that would provide for the joint security of those nations.  And obviously the United States could be supportive of that effort in terms of providing some expertise and equipment and training.  But ultimately this would be a joint capability that would be developed and maintained and operated by those GCC countries.  And that’s indicative of the President’s desire to deepen his cooperation with our GCC partners in the region.  

But as the President himself has said, he would not have pursued this agreement unless he was completely confident that it was in the best national security interest of the United States, first and foremost, but also in the interest of our allies and partners in the region.  And we’re pleased to hear that at least some representatives of those GCC countries have now clearly stated that they agree with the President’s conclusion.

Q    Does this help his case?  And can you answer the question about does it undercut that particular argument that’s —

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I do think it undercuts the argument because we have seen some who have made the case that this agreement would have a negative impact on the security situation of our partners in the Middle East.  The President does not at all agree with that assessment.  In fact, he thinks it strengthens the national security considerations of our allies and partners in the Middle East.  And we welcome the statement from leaders of those countries who indicate that they agree with the President’s conclusion.


Q    So, Josh, federal agents are going to assist Baltimore police to deal with a rash of homicides.  And I was curious if the President, A, was advised, or that recommendation was brought to be signed off on it.  What does he think is going on there?  And in Kenya, and again today, the President has not hesitated to give admonishing words to young Africans in both cases about what they should do to address problems in their own countries.  Does he have any desire or willingness to go to Baltimore to speak directly to that community that’s in the grip of a historic level of violence?

MR. EARNEST:  Major, I’m not aware that this required a presidential decision.  The Department of Justice has been working with local officials and local law enforcement officials in Baltimore for some time to help them deal with a variety of challenges that they’ve been confronting, particularly in some predominantly African American neighborhoods in Baltimore. 

The commitment of additional resources and manpower to Baltimore is consistent with the kinds of consultations that have been ongoing for some time.

Certainly the President is concerned about reports about an uptick in violent crime in Baltimore.  And that’s why he has directed his Department of Justice to continue to be very focused on what steps can be taken not just to strengthen the relationship between local law enforcement and the communities they’re sworn to serve and protect, but also to take some additional steps to try to provide for better law enforcement in that area.

Q    Stan Collender, who is somebody a lot of us pay attention to when it comes to budget matters, has now placed the odds in a government shutdown this fall at 60 percent from where he started a couple of weeks ago at 20 percent.  I would like to get your assessment of where you think and this administration thinks things are in terms of negotiated settlement ultimately, but the prospect of a shutdown.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Major, let me start by saying that Senator McConnell — Leader McConnell indicated that he did not believe that another shutdown would occur.  This is something that he expressed some time ago, and he vowed to use his significant influence in the United States Senate to prevent a government shutdown, and we certainly take him at his word.  

What’s going to be required is we’re going to need to see Democrats and Republicans in Congress sit down at the negotiating table and try to resolve their differences, and they should do that sooner rather than later.

Q    In that context, I’m sure you saw Senator Shelby said over the weekend, Thanksgiving for that.  How do you react to that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that certainly would not be consistent with the promise that was made by Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell to use their new majority in the United States Congress to get Congress moving again.  And the fact is, there is no reason we should wait until Thanksgiving.  We know what the issues are, and that’s precisely why Democrats and Republicans should follow a template that has resulted in important agreements in the past.  And that is for Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate to sit down and start trying to find some common ground.  There are legitimate differences between the two parties, but there should be enough common ground that can be agreed upon to prevent a government shutdown, and that’s what we’re hopeful that they’ll do.

So far, we’ve seen a willingness on the part of Democrats to actually have those negotiations, but unfortunately, Republicans have resisted those kinds of talks and it’s irresponsible for them to do so.

Q    If Thanksgiving is the landing place, would the President veto CRs to get there?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we certainly would not — we don’t believe that it is in the best interest of the country for the most powerful, successful country in the history of the world to be functioning on a budget that lasts month-to-month; that truly there should be a better way for us to run the country.

Q    Right.  I know that’s the preference.  I’m just curious if it’s a hard and fast rule.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, right now it shouldn’t come to a CR.  What should happen is Democrats and Republicans should get together and start working on a longer-term agreement.  I suppose they can wait until the end of November if — assuming that there’s some kind of extension passed in the interim period.  But there’s nothing that’s going to change between now and Thanksgiving, so why not go ahead and sit down and have these discussions now, and get this problem out of the way?  That certainly would be in the best interest of our economy.

Q    Xi Jinping will be here in September for a state visit.  There are reports — and they may have just popped up before you came out, so if you’re not aware of this, work on it if you could — that Ling Wancheng, who was purged in an anti-corruption move in China, has stayed here in the United States and the Chinese government has launched a formal request to have him sent back to China.  This is regarded as a complicating — one of many complicating factors in the U.S.-China relationship.  Can you tell us whether or not there has been any formal request from the Chinese government along these lines and if this is merited?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any specific request but let me take that question and see if we can get you a more formal response.


Q    Thanks.  Just back on Iran for a moment.  Some of the groups that are opposing the deal have announced pretty elaborate plans to go to congressional districts and air advertising there during the recess to try and advocate — build up opposition against the deal.  What is the President planning to do once all the members have left town?  You noted senators are still here, but House members are back in their districts.  Will he be traveling to make the case for the deal?  Is the White House planning anything localized to try and counter the drumbeat of opposition in districts and states during the recess?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julie, I think it’s fair to say that the President has had a pretty high profile on these issues over the last couple of weeks, and the President is planning a significant speech later this week, where he’ll discuss this issue and elevate some of the arguments that the President believes are central to any sort of decision on this agreement.  To put it bluntly, the President believes that Congress should be supportive of an international effort to resolve — well, to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy.  And no one has put forward a legitimate workable alternative other than raising the prospect of using the military option.  

Now, the President has been clear that the military option has always been on the table and it will continue to be.  But if we have an opportunity to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon using diplomacy, the President believes that we should seize that opportunity.  And that’s why over the last two years, or nearly two years, the President and senior members of his team, have spent so much time and effort trying to reach this agreement. 

And the President is pleased that his team was able to work effectively with the international community to unite the international community, to present a united front to Iran, and get Iran to make commitments to reduce their nuclear stockpile by 98 percent, to remove 13,000 centrifuges and to render harmless their heavy-water reactor in Arak, and to submit to the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program to ensure they’re living up to the commitments that they made in the agreement.

So that’s the essence of the argument and that is what we hope that not just Americans across the country will find persuasive but what individual members of Congress will find persuasive.  And the President has given speeches, the President convened a conference call last week, where he talked with grassroots activists all across the country about this agreement to get them energized about this agreement to make sure that they understand the terms of the deal.  And we’re going to continue to make that case and we are confident that a sizeable number of members of Congress will put politics aside and focus on what they believe is in the best interest of the United States and our national security.  And if they do, a substantial number of those who follow that path will be supportive of the agreement.

Q    Have you been encouraging Democrats who are supportive or who are coming onboard, as you put it earlier, to publicize that support as quickly as possible to try to build the momentum in support of the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we certainly welcome those public expressions of support but each individual member of Congress will take the time that they need to consider very carefully this agreement to receive a handful of briefings.  Whether it’s briefings in a classified setting or open testimony or even private meetings with the President of the United States, members of Congress have a variety of ways to understand exactly what’s included in the agreement and to understand what impact this agreement would have on national security and understand exactly how it will strengthen the hand of the United States and strengthen our national security.  And we’re going to continue to make that case, and it certainly is understandable that members of Congress are going to take their time in considering the agreement, considering the information that they have taken in, maybe even consult with some of their constituents before announcing their position.  But we certainly welcome the important expressions of public support that we’ve already received.

Q    You mentioned put politics aside, that’s what you’re encouraging members to do.  Do you think the Democrats who are on the fence are motivated by political concerns or are they worried about political considerations and not the substance of the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  There’s no denying that there is intense political pressure on both sides of this agreement, and what we’re hopeful that people will do is put aside that political pressure and focus on the specific terms of the agreement.  And, again, if you look squarely at the agreement that’s in place, these significant curbs on the Iranian nuclear program, the unprecedented level of inspections to which the Iranian nuclear program would be subjected, it’s clear that this is the best way for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And that’s good for the national security interest of the United States; it’s good for the national security interest of our closest ally in the region, Israel; and it’s good for our partners in the Middle East like the GCC countries.  And that’s the case that the President will make and we think that’s a case that many members of Congress will be receptive to.


Q    May I follow up?  Not long after President Kennedy’s American University commencement address, a partial nuclear test ban treaty was signed that summer by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States in Moscow — that was August 5th.  U.S. ratification occurred in the U.S. Senate a few weeks later on the 24th of September.  The treaty was signed by President Kennedy on October 7th, and the treaty went into effect on October 10th.  Is this the kind of rapid action that President Obama is hoping for as a result of his American University address on the Iran nuclear deal on Wednesday?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, JC, it sounds like you’ve done your homework in terms of that timeline.  What I would say is that we hope that we would be able to move forward with implementing this agreement soon.  Congress has 60 days to consider this agreement and we are going to, of course, give them those full 60 days to do their work.  The United Nations Security Council, the members of the — including all of the members of the P5+1 who negotiated this agreement — voted in favor of moving forward with this agreement, but there’s a 90-day period before the agreement will begin to be implemented.  But after that, we would anticipate that we would move quickly to implement it, and that starts, I’ll remind you, with Iran taking verifiable steps to curb their nuclear program before they receive any sort of sanctions relief.

So the kinds of steps that we want to see in the short term are laid out in the agreement, and they involve Iran reducing their nuclear stockpile by 98 percent, removing 13,000 centrifuges, rendering harmless their heavy-water reactor at Arak, and beginning to comply with the basic — beginning to comply with the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program.  And that also includes giving the IAEA the access to the information that they need to complete their report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.

So we need to see Iran comply in the short term before any sort of sanctions relief is given, but we hope to see Iran begin to take those steps within the next couple of months.

Q    And the President will be making this case on Wednesday at AU?

MR. EARNEST:  This will certainly be an important part of the President’s case.  And since you mentioned President Kennedy, I think the other thing that’s relevant here are two things that come to mind.  The first is there are some who are critics of the deal who have worried that it’s somehow not wise to engage in these kinds of conversations with a country like Iran, with whom we have such significant concerns.  The fact is, we do have significant concerns with Iran.  This is an agreement that is not based on trust but rather is based on our ability to verify their compliance with the agreement.

But the fact is, as the President himself as often said, you don’t enter into these kinds of agreements with your friends.  You have to resolve these kinds of differences with your adversaries.  And given Iran’s support for terrorism, the way that they continue to menace Israel, the way that they continue to unjustly detain some Americans inside of Iran, that’s an indication of the long list of concerns we have with Iran; that’s all the more reason we need to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

The second thing that I’ll illustrate, or I’ll point out — and I think this is something that you’ll hear a little bit more about over the course of this week — the other thing that’s different about the agreement that the P5+1, the United States and our international partners, have struck with Iran, and the agreement that was struck between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Kennedy era is President Kennedy signed up the United States to make some significant concessions as a part of the agreement — that there were significant reductions in U.S. nuclear activity that was a part of that agreement.  That ultimately was an agreement that was in the best interest of our national security.  The difference is, in the case of our negotiation with Iran, the United States doesn’t have to make any concessions.  This is about the Iranian regime significantly rolling back key aspects of their nuclear program and agreeing to a whole set of inspections that will verify their compliance with the agreement. 

The United States, after all, doesn’t have to make any concessions.  And I think, again, that should serve — I think that’s a useful way for us to illustrate the wisdom of this approach.

Q    Did the President see any similarities between Mr. Khrushchev and the Ayatollah? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that’s a historical analogy that I would hesitate to comment on.


Q    Getting back to the climate announcement that the President is going to make, I know you talked about this a little earlier with Josh, but isn’t it possible that this will get tied up in the courts?  Isn’t it very likely that this is going to get tied up in the courts?  Opponents of the Clean Air rules on mercury and other toxins — that went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Isn’t it possible that this is just going to get tied up until the end of the Obama administration?

MR. EARNEST:  Jim, I have no doubt that special interests and the politicians who are in their pockets will fight tooth and nail against this specific rule.  But the fact is, this is a step in the right direction when it comes to strengthening our economy, improving public health and finally confronting the carbon pollution that leads to climate change.

Q    But it could get tied up to the extent that this rule may not go into effect — these regulations may not go into effect.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, no, again, I’m confident the special interests will make that argument, but I’m also confident in the legal power of our arguments.  And as you pointed out, there is a clear track record of how the Clean Air Act has been used in the past to implement regulations that are clearly in the best interests of our country and in the best interests of our economy, I’d point out.  One of the common arguments that we’re most likely to hear from opponents is a suggestion that using the Clean Air Act in this way will have negative consequences for our economy.  But the fact is, since the Clean Air Act went into place in the mid-1970s, we’ve reduced pollution by 70 percent but the size of the U.S. economy has tripled.  So that’s why I think there’s a lot of skepticism on the part of anybody who is paying attention when confronted with arguments that these kinds of thoughtful, flexible but common-sense rules are somehow not in the best interest of the U.S. economy.

The fact is, our economy has done well when we’ve taken wise and prudent steps to protect the environment in a way that’s also good for our economy.

Q    Immigration also got stopped in its tracks.  Those executive actions have not been put into effect because of legal challenges — another legacy item that the President just is not going to see realized.  Isn’t it possible that this climate plan may be put in that same box?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I wouldn’t — again, I think that there is a clear legal justification for these rules.  In fact, this is authority that the President is using that was given to the administration by Congress in the Clean Air Act.  And this is authority that has been exercised by previous members of — by previous administrations on a number of occasions.  And, again, we continue to have a lot of confidence that the effective implementation of these rules, by working closely with states and giving them the flexibility that they need to tailor an approach that’s consistent with the needs of the citizens in their states, is in the best interest of the United States, the best interest of our economy, and the best interest of our planet.

Q    And getting back to Ling Wancheng — has he been in touch with the U.S. government?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any information on this particular matter but we’ll follow up with you on it.

Q    You have no information on this matter?  Were you aware of this report when you walked out into this briefing room?

MR. EARNEST:  I did not see this report before I walked out here.

Q    Okay, so you’re just not aware of it.  And getting back to Vice President Biden, do you have any observations on how that would affect this race and Hillary Clinton’s campaign?  There are so many former members of this administration, this White House team who went to work for Hillary Clinton.  If Vice President Biden were to get into the race, it would just undoubtedly change the dynamic of the race for the Democratic nomination.  Do you have any thoughts on that?  

MR. EARNEST:  Not really.  (Laughter.)  Look, I’ll try to be helpful here.

Q    The President selected a team of rivals, and we may have a team of rivals running for President.  Right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess it would be.

Q    Team Rivals 2, or something.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  Having worked on one successful campaign for the presidency, one of the recipes for success is focusing on the race at hand and on the things that you can actually control.  And it sounds like that’s the approach that the Clinton campaign is pursuing, and it is in their best interest to not be focused on which candidates may or may not get in the race, but actually to focus on the candidate that you’re working for and articulating his or her vision for the future of the country.

And that’s the approach that the Clinton campaign has said that they’re going to take, and I think it’s a wise approach.  And again, they don’t need to take any advice from me, but that certainly is an approach that served the Obama campaign quite well in 2007 and 2008.

Q    Advice that you put into practice running against Hillary Clinton at that time.

MR. EARNEST:  That’s one relevant observation, I suppose.

Q    But getting back to the Vice President, I mean, you’re not sending any signals at all that his entry would be unwelcome in any way, shape or form.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the signal that I’m trying to send is that the Vice President has earned the right to make a decision for himself on his own timeline about whether or not to pursue a campaign for the presidency in 2016.  And the fact is, when the President chose Vice President Biden to be his Vice President, he described it at the time, and many times since, that it was the smartest decision that he had made in politics.

And that’s because the Vice President has been uniquely suited for this role.  He’s somebody that had a long career as a fighter for the middle class.  He is somebody who, as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, developed important relationships with world leaders, and has used those relationships to advance the interests of the United States.  

And so whether it is working with leaders in Iraq or the leaders of Ukraine, or other countries in Latin America, the Vice President has been a very effective advocate for U.S. interests all around the globe.  That was true when he was in the Senate, and that’s certainly been true as Vice President.

That gives him a very unique set of skills and experience.  And it’s not surprising to me that there are people who are talking about this possibility.  But ultimately, when you have that kind of stature within the party, you’re afforded the opportunity to weigh this decision and to announce it on your own timeframe.  And that’s exactly what the Vice President is doing.

Q    I know we’ve gone around the horn on this next item quite a bit, and I just — to ask the question, it seems that part of the reason why there’s so much talk and speculation about Vice President Biden running for President is because of this issue of the emails and Secretary Clinton; that it is just such a headache and such a concern inside the Democratic Party that that has given some life to the speculation.  Agree with that, disagree with that?  

MR. EARNEST:  I disagree with that, principally because there were a lot of people speculating about the possibility of a Biden presidency long before anybody knew what Hillary Clinton’s email address was.  


Q    Just to go back to the Syria issue — to be clear, you said that you haven’t struck the regime in response to attacks against your allies in Syria, but you have defended your allies against attacks from al Nusra, is that right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Andrew, I think what I’m trying to make clear is that we have not detected at this point an attack, or any interference, by the Assad regime in the activities of our counter-ISIL coalition.  

So that would be the reason why it has not been necessary for the coalition to take any strikes against the Assad regime, because we’ve made clear to the Assad regime that they should not interfere with our counter-ISIL activities inside of Syria.  That was an admonition that we articulated at the beginning of our counter-ISIL campaign inside of Syria last fall, and that admonition at the time applied to airstrikes that the United States and our coalition partners were taking against extremist targets inside of Syria.

But that admonition certainly applies to the counter-ISIL ground forces that have been trained and equipped by the United States and our coalition partners and are currently operating inside of Syria against ISIL.

Q    And on a separate but related issue, an independent monitoring group has said that it believes 459 civilians have died in U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria.  I was wondering if you think that — does the White House believe that that death toll is credible?

MR. EARNEST:  Andrew, I haven’t seen that particularly analysis but I’d refer you to the Department of Defense on this.

Q    Josh, two different subjects.  When it comes to Iran, you’re tallying votes here at the White House, and it’s suspected that you — from administration officials — that you have enough votes to sustain a veto.  What is your tally so far?  

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have a specific vote count to share with you.  As you know, there are still many members of Congress who are deciding what their final vote will be on this.  

We put — one reason that we have projected a substantial amount of confidence in our ability to sustain a veto, at least in the House, is that back in May, there were about 150 or so House Democrats — I don’t have the letter in front of me; it’s about 150 House Democrats — who have indicated that they are — that they at the time were supportive of an effort to reach a final agreement consistent with the parameters established in the political agreement that was announced the first week in April.

And what you now know, since we announced the details of the comprehensive final agreement, is that we didn’t just meet the standard that was set in Lausanne in the context of the political agreement, we actually exceeded it.  And that’s the case that we have made to members of the House Democratic Caucus, in particular, and that’s why we continue to be confident that we’d be able to sustain a presidential veto in the House of Representatives.

That being said, we clearly are not taking any of those votes for granted.  And that’s why you’ve seen senior administration officials, including the President, participate in classified hearings — or classified briefings in — open hearings before relevant committees, and even in private meetings with the President of the United States.

Q    So what do you do for those Senate Democrats who feel they have six weeks to carefully look through this Iran deal?  I know it’s nail-biting here and you want an answer quickly, but how do you handle those senators who may wait up until the very last minute — the 11th hour, 59 minutes and 59 seconds — to make their decision?  How do you handle those Democrats in the Senate?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I mean, I think our approach has been characterized by a desire to provide them with as much information as they feel they need to make their decision.  Our operating assumption here has been that the more information that we can provide about the agreement, the more likely that people are to support it.  And that’s simply because we’ve got a lot of confidence in what was negotiated by Secretary Kerry, Secretary Moniz, Secretary Lew and others who are responsible for reaching this agreement, not just with Iran but with the broader international community.

Q    And on my second subject, I want to go back to Major’s question on Baltimore.  And primarily, when you have a police department that is accused of deliberately slowing down actively working crimes, and then you’re going to bring in federal agents, is there some kind of quandary there?  And do you think that the Justice Department should look at a possible police shakeup of that department if they are actively accused of deliberately slowing down responding and dealing with crimes in that city that has seen a number of violent crimes and homicides rise to record numbers?

MR. EARNEST:  April, what I can tell you is that the Department of Justice is, and has been for some time, interested in working closely with officials in Baltimore, both elected political leaders but also local law enforcement officers, to provide for the needs of the people of the city of Baltimore.  And we did see a pretty significant rupture in the relationship between local law enforcement in some communities inside of Baltimore, and there have been consequences for that.  

And the Department of Justice has officials at the Department of — has officials who have a lot of experience in trying to repair those kinds of relationships, and to try to make sure that local officials and local law enforcement officials can meet the need of the people in those communities.  And that’s what they’re actively trying to do.

And that assistance takes a variety of forms.  So for some more details about what exactly they’re doing at the Department of Justice to help the people of Baltimore and to help the city of Baltimore meet the needs of the people in that city, I’d refer you to them.  But this certainly is something that they’re committed to.

Q    Does this White House find it acceptable, three months after that riot at Freddie Gray’s funeral, that the police are deliberately slowing down actively working crimes?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ve seen some reports about that, but I don’t have facts to back up that accusation.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  I want to ask you about clean power.  Can you assure the American people — I looked at a lot of the numbers and they’re pretty impressive, but can you ensure the American people that their basic energy costs won’t go up in the wake of this particular coup by the President?

MR. EARNEST:  Kevin, what we have seen and what our analysis shows is that as the Clean Power Plan is implemented, we will see individual states and individual utilities ramp up their investments in efficiency, ramp up their investments in renewable energy, which is cheaper to produce than energy that’s produced by coal.  And making those kinds of investments will lead to savings in the utility bills of customers down the line.  

And that is what we’re focused on, both in terms of saving consumers money, but also a whole set of benefits that are associated with shifting to renewable energy, or the use of less energy.  And that means fewer cases of asthma, fewer asthma attacks.  It means accelerating the already-burgeoning clean-energy industry that exists in this country.  That’s going to lead to greater economic growth and more job creation.

So there’s a really important opportunity for us to seize here, and that’s the essence of this agreement moving forward, to say nothing of how important it is for us to take tangible steps to fight carbon pollution and the causes of climate change.

Q    You might, however, see how people in West Virginia, for example, and Kentucky and other places that would be severely impacted by a major economic shift like that — what do you say to people who live in these places who rely on those energies — I’m sorry, those jobs, from that particular industry?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Kevin, what we have seen is that for more than a decade we’ve seen a decline in the coal industry.  And the fact is that using coal to power — to generate power is more expensive than a number of alternatives, including natural gas.  And that has had a negative impact on the coal industry.  Just as one piece of — one illustration here, there have actually been more jobs lost in the coal industry under Presidents Reagan and Clinton than there have been under President Obama.  

And I use that example to illustrate that this is a much broader trend that we’ve seen over the course of decades and not a phenomenon that has emerged just since Barack Obama was elected President.  

But you asked a relevant question, which is what is the administration doing about it.  And, Kevin, we can get you some more details on this, but I would point you to — at the end of last year, the administration rolled out something called the POWER Plus plan, and this was essentially a $10 billion package of incentives that would focus directly on workers in coal country — those communities that rely on the coal industry and have for generations, particularly in places like West Virginia and Kentucky. 

And what this $10 billion would do is invest in things like job training and job creation to try to help those workers transition away from an industry that is facing some pretty stiff economic headwinds, and in the direction of better economic opportunities.  It also would include a specific investment in the health and retirement security of those workers.  We obviously know that working in the coal industry is one that can take a toll on a worker’s health and job security and retirement security.  And so we’ve made investments in that area as well.  

And that’s an indication that the administration is serious about helping the coal industry and the workers that rely on the coal industry transition into an industry that has better long-term prospects.

Q    Couple more — one on Syria, one on Iran.  On Iran, any update on the Americans that have been detained there unlawfully?

MR. EARNEST:  Just, Kevin, to assure you and those who have been very keenly focused on the well-being of those Americans, that our efforts to obtain their release are ongoing.  And the President himself indicated that this was a top priority, and that continues to be true even today.

Q    And in Syria, can you assure the American people that this country is not engaged in a proxy war against the Assad regime?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as I mentioned to Andrew, we’ve been very clear that the United States and our coalition partners are committed to using military force where necessary to protect the coalition-trained-and-equipped Syrian opposition fighters that are operating against ISIL inside of Syria right now.

And what we have done is we have admonished the Assad regime to not interfere with our ongoing counter-ISIL efforts inside of Syria, and that doesn’t just mean not interfering with our air campaign inside of Syria that’s been going on for almost a year now, but also not to interfere in the efforts of our — of the coalition-trained-and-equipped fighters that are operating against ISIL in Syria right now.  

And we’ve already taken some steps that make sure — to provide for the safety and security of those opposition fighters and we’re going to continue to do so.

Q    But it’s not a proxy war?  You can say that definitively?

MR. EARNEST:  Yeah.  And primarily because we’ve taken steps to defend those fighters.  But we have, so far, seen the Assad regime abide by the admonishment that we have offered to not interfere with our activities inside of Syria.


Q    Thank you.  So back to Iran just for a moment.  You can just reiterate again — were you saying that President Obama does feel today confident that he has enough votes to sustain his veto?

MR. EARNEST:  Linsey, we do feel confident that when — that if faced with the choice of sustaining the President’s veto of a resolution of disapproval, that we’ve got enough support in the House of Representatives to sustain that veto. 

Now, we don’t take those votes for granted, and there certainly haven’t been a sufficient number of House Democrats who have come forward publicly to say that that’s what their position would be.  But we do put a lot of stock in the commitment that was made by enough House Democrats to sustain a veto in the form of that letter that they signed back in May that indicated their support for a comprehensive agreement that reflected the outlines of the political agreement that was reached in Lausanne in early April.

And what we have since indicated, since that letter was signed and delivered, is that we actually have a comprehensive agreement that doesn’t just meet the parameters of the Lausanne agreement; our comprehensive agreement actually exceeds those parameters in a couple of ways.

Q    And does the President believe that the Vice President would be a good President?  And does he believe that Hillary Clinton would be equally a good President?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I won’t get into rating the qualifications of any candidates or possible candidates.  But I think the President has indicated that one of the reasons that he chose Joe Biden to be his running mate and to be the Vice President of the United States is that he thinks that he would be a good President.  There’s no doubt about that.  But I would also point out that the President has spoken warmly of others who have served in his administration, including Secretary Clinton.  

So ultimately, it will be the responsibility of Democratic voters all across the country to decide who they believe would be the best Democratic nominee for President.  And the President will have the opportunity to vote in the Illinois primary, but at this point, I don’t have any public endorsement decisions that the President’s made.  But if the President has decided to endorse a candidate in the Democratic primary, we’ll let you know.


Q    Josh, what does the administration make out of the last round of negotiations in Hawaii for the Trans-Pacific Partnership?  Are you concerned that this is going to stumble after a long fight on the domestic front?

MR. EARNEST:  No.  What we are focused on, and what Ambassador Froman is focused on, is making sure that the final TPP agreement is one that sets — that meets the criteria that the President has laid out.  And that criteria is specifically that it enhances the economic prospects of middle-class families here in the United States, but also enhances the national security interests of the United States around the globe.

And that’s the kind of agreement that the President has directed his team to try to broker.  And the President has indicated that he’s not going to sign onto an agreement that falls short of that standard.  And so it’s not particularly surprising to me that there might be some in other countries who are suggesting that the United States has not moven far enough in their direction.  Principally, you can expect Ambassador Froman and others who are negotiating this agreement to be strong advocates for the United States and for our economy and for middle-class families.

The good news is, is that there should be — there should be some common ground where we can reach an agreement that’s in the best interest of consumers in another country, while at the same time being clearly in the best interests of the United States and our economy.  And that’s the common ground that they’ve been hard at work at trying to find for several years now.

But again, I think — the President has, on a number of occasions, demonstrated a willingness to both walk away from the negotiating table or to bolt past deadlines to make sure that these kinds of agreements are clearly in the best interest of the United States.  And whether that’s — the thing that comes to mind most readily is the trip that the President took to South Korea in the fall of 2010.  And the expectation of many was that would be the place where the President and his team would complete a trade agreement with the Republic of Korea, and those of you who traveled on that trip remembered that we got a lot of bad press because that agreement wasn’t done.  And the suggestion was that the President had somehow fallen short and didn’t have the international juice that he needed to have to complete that agreement.  But about a year later, we completed an agreement, and that was an indication that the President was willing to endure a little criticism, even in the media — in the short in pursuit of a longer-term agreement that is clearly in the best interest of our economy.

Q    You fielded a question last week about how domestic politics in some of the member nations, specifically Canada, might affect something like Keystone.  Are you concerned that domestic politics in Canada, the upcoming election there, is affecting the TPP negotiations in a negative way?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I actually don’t know exactly what impact the Canadian political situation is having on the Canadian negotiators.  But I’m sure there’s somebody at the USTR that does.  I don’t know if they’ll talk to you about it publicly, but you can give it a shot.


Q    I have a quick question about immigration.  Even though this administration has broken records in the deportation of undocumented immigrants, the number of undocumented has stayed steady — 11.3 million.  Now, the White House website says that undocumented immigrants last stopped growing in the last decade.  How can we say that if the number is still over 11 million?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Edwin, what the President announced when it came to his executive actions on immigration reform at the end of last year is that he wanted to make our immigration system more accountable and to add some much-needed accountability to our broken immigration system.  And what that means is it meant focusing our law enforcement resources on those individuals who came to this country and posed a threat to this country, or to communities inside this country.  That principally means going after those who perpetrated acts of violence, and making sure that those individuals are promptly deported; that we should be focused on felons and not on separating families that in some cases have been in the United States for a decade or longer.

And the President made an aggressive case that Congress should act decisively to bring some much-needed accountability to our broken immigration system, and allow those who have been in this country for some time, who have tried to contribute to our country in a positive way by getting a job and trying to provide for their families, that one of the things that we can do is actually bring them out of the shadows and make them undergo a background check and put them in a situation where they can pay taxes again.  And this would actually be good for our economy, it would be good for economic growth, but it also would make the immigration system more fair and a better reflection of the kinds of values that are critically important in this country.

And that’s what the President did using his executive action.  But ultimately what we’d like to see is we’d like to see Congress take that kind of common-sense action that previously won some bipartisan for it, and we’re going to need to build it again.

Jessica, I’ll give you the last one.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Just to get more clarity on the Clean Power Plan with respect to how it relates to Paris and the climate talks there.  I know on the call there was this sense of this being part of building momentum.  Can you talk about how these specific targets relate to what the U.S. and other major polluting economies want to see happen in Paris?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jessica, you know that we have had a lot of success in getting other countries to make significant commitments alongside the United States when we make important domestic commitments when it comes to reducing carbon pollution.  So the President traveled to China last November, where he announced a significant commitment on the part of the United States to reduce carbon pollution in this country, and he was met with a similar commitment by President Xi to cap carbon emissions in China on or around 2030.  

And what that would require on the part of the Chinese is a historic investment in renewable energy on the scale that we’ve never seen before.  And that’s — that means it’s a significant commitment that’s made by the Chinese government but also is the kind of commitment that opens up significant economic opportunity for U.S. businesses, particularly those U.S. businesses that are looking to do business in the renewable energy industry inside of China.  That’s an indication of how we’ve previously been able to leverage domestic commitments in the United States to broader international commitments by other countries.

We saw a similar dynamic when President Rousseff of Brazil visited the White House, where both Presidents made a commitment to reduce carbon emissions.  We’ve seen similar commitments from places like Mexico, which agreed to cap their carbon pollution in 2026.  We saw commitments from India when it comes to the deployment of renewable energy technology.  We also saw a significant commitment in just the last month or so from South Korea.  And that’s an indication that there is building momentum toward the climate talks in Paris.  And I do think you can expect that the United States will seek to use this significant domestic commitment that the President announced today to leverage a commitment from other countries and even advance the talks in December.

Q    And so how would it affect the President’s credibility and his representatives in Paris if this whole thing is undermined by industry groups and legislators who oppose it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jessica, we continue to be confident in the legal authority that the President was given by the United States Congress in the Clean Air Act to implement these rules in this way.  And it’s why the administration has gone to great lengths to try to be flexible in working with states to implement these rules.  And we’ve indicated that what the administration will do is set targets for individual states, but ultimately individual states can devise their own plan for meeting those targets.  And what we’ve said is, we’ve said that those states could spend most of the next year putting that plan together and submitting it to the federal government.

And what we have done is essentially given them a two-year extension in implementing those rules.  The proposed rule that we put forward was that the plans needed to begin being implemented in 2020, and what the final rule indicates is that states now don’t have to begin implementing those plans until 2022.  So they can use those two years to sort or refine and plan for the effective implementation of those strategies.

The other thing that’s notable is that what we have not done is taken away incentives for states to make early investments in clean energy; that our policy folks are calling this essentially a head start for renewable energy and for energy efficiency.  So if we see that states are making a commitment and implementing renewable energy technology or energy efficiency technology in their states in 2020, they’ll get the benefit of making those investments even though they’re not required to begin implementing their plans until 2022.

So again, I cite that — it’s a little complicated — but it’s an indication of our desire to work effectively with states and to give states alto of support and incentive to begin to seriously commit to the implementation of these rules.

Q    And just one other question on the renewables aspect, which is — yesterday on the call, Administrator McCarthy mentioned how part of the economic argument of the opposition has been undermined by the fact that renewables prices are coming down.  And part of that is due to global competition from solar panel manufacturers around the world, including China.  And I wonder if the White House recognizes that some of the economic incentives behind what you’re trying to do have been supported by some of the advances of other countries in this regard.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are two things that come to mind on this.  The first is that part of the commitment that China made to cleaner energy production was an investment in nuclear technology — essentially technology for nuclear power plants.  There are a variety of U.S. companies that are the industry leader in that field.  And that does open up really important business opportunities in China for American companies, and that means a good opportunity to expand economic growth and job creation right here in the United States because of opportunities that exist in China.

Q    Do you recognize the reverse?

MR. EARNEST:  I do recognize the reverse.  And it’s principally because of those competitive forces that the President has made the case that that’s why the United States needs to get serious about accelerating the kind of investment that we’ve seen thus far in renewable energy.  Obviously, because of the commitment that China has made to cap their carbon pollution in 2030, that means that they’re going to need a significant investment in renewable energy technology.  And if the United States wants to keep pace, we need to make sure that we see a sustained investment in this country and in this economy, too. 
And one of the benefits of this rule — and I think this is sort of going back to the beginning of the briefing — I think this is one of the things that some industry leaders actually like about this proposal is it does give them some certainty.  That right now, if you’re an investor in the energy field, that you can look at these rules and say, well, this is a serious commitment that every state across the country is going to have to make to implementing this plan and investing in renewable energy by 2030.  That means, as a private sector investor trying to determine whether or not there’s going to be a market for renewable goods in this country, that you can be confident that your kind of investment has an opportunity to succeed because you know that states all across the country are invested in implementing this technology.  That’s going to create a whole new market.

Now, the truth is, in the last several years we’ve actually seen U.S. investment in U.S. companies perform very well in this sector, but we believe that those investments can essentially be turbocharged by making a significant long-term investment to that kind of technology.

2:01 P.M. EDT

News in Brief 05 August 2015 (PM)

SA Army

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Special Representative and head of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSCA, Babacar Gaye (left) encourages ex-combatants to join the road to peace in the Central African Republic (CAR). Photo: MINUSCA

CAR displaced returning home

An improvement in the overall security situation in the Central African Republic (CAR), has allowed internally displaced people to return home and economic activity to recover.

That’s according to the top UN envoy in the country, Babacar Gaye, who has been briefing the Security Council.

CAR has been mired in sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian militias for the past two years.

Mr Gaye said that many parts of the country are still targeted by armed groups.

Reconciliation given boost in Sri Lanka

A range of initiatives to boost reconciliation between former foes in Sri Lanka is being discussed by the UN and the government of the country.

Sri Lanka is recovering from a civil war between government forces and Tamil Tiger rebels which ended in 2009.

Here’s the UN Spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric.

“What is being discussed for support by the Peacebuilding Fund are initiatives to advance the process of reconciliation in Sri Lanka through the resettlement of internally displaced persons, national reconciliation, and the development of credible transitional justice mechanisms in line with international standards.”

US$1 million has already been disbursed from the fund to support resettlement and integration initiatives in the north and east of the country for people displaced by the conflict.

Europe lags behind in breastfeeding

Almost half the number of children in Europe are breastfed compared to South East Asia, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Figures for 2006 to 2012 show an estimated 25 per cent of infants were exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months in Europe compared with 43 per cent in South-East Asia.

Marking World Breastfeeding Week, WHO said there were a number of factors contributing to the low rate.

They include poverty, difficulties in accessing health services, social marginalization, workplace issues and the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

Daniel Dickinson, United Nations.

Duration: 2’07″

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SEVEN NFB FILMS TO SCREEN AT TIFF 2015. An eclectic mix of Canadian ...

August 5, 2015 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) returns to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) (September 10–20, 2015) with a stellar line up of feature films from Mina Shum, Mark Lewis and Guy Maddin, as well as short films from award-winning animator Howie Shia, Godspeed You! Black Emperor member David Bryant and collaborator Karl Lemieux, journalist Katherine Monk, and multidisciplinary artist Caroline Monnet.
Feature films

Vancouver’s Mina Shum is back at the festival with her feature-length documentary directorial debut Ninth Floor, which revisits the infamous 1969 Sir George Williams Riot at Montreal’s Concordia University, a watershed moment in Canadian race relations. Hamilton, Ontario-born visual artist Mark Lewis explores the ever-changing textures of Paris, São Paulo and Toronto in Invention (Mark Lewis Studio/NFB/Soda Film + Art), an anthology woven from 14 short films. In The Forbidden Room (Phi Films/Buffalo Gal Pictures/NFB), Winnipeg auteur Guy Maddin teams up with co-director Evan Johnson to honour classic cinema by taking us high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia and captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. The Forbidden Room originated from the NFB-produced interactive project Seances, launching in 2016.

Short films

The Short Cuts Program features four NFB works. Toronto’s Howie Shia (Flutter) drew on events in the life of his Taiwanese grandfather to create the animated short BAM, a modern adaptation of the myth of Hercules. In Quiet Zone, Montreal filmmakers Karl Lemieux and David Bryant use elements of documentary, film essay and experimental film to take viewers deep into the world of people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Vancouver film critic and author Katherine Monk makes her directorial debut with Rock the Box, which looks at Rhiannon Rozier’s efforts to break into the male-dominated world of DJing. And Montreal-based artist Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize explores the perpetual negotiation between the modern and the traditional by Canadian Indigenous peoples, with images culled entirely from outtakes from over 700 NFB films dating back to 1939, and a driving musical score by Tanya Tagaq.

Quick Facts

Feature films

Ninth Floor, world premiere in TIFF Docs, 81 min.

•    More than four decades after the infamous Sir George Williams Riot, Ninth Floor takes audiences back to one of the most contested episodes in the nation’s history. Writer and director Mina Shum films the protagonists in locations throughout Trinidad and Montreal. In a cinematic gesture of reckoning and redemption, she listens as they set the record straight — and lay their burden down.
•    Ninth Floor is written and directed by Mina Shum, produced by Selwyn Jacob and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s Pacific and Yukon Centre in Vancouver.
•    Shum’s first feature, the NFB-co-produced Double Happiness (1994), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it won a Special Jury Citation for Best Canadian Feature Film and the Toronto Metro Media Prize. Shum’s second and third features—Drive, She Said (1997) and Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity (2002)—also premiered at TIFF. Her short films include Me, Mom and Mona, which won a Special Jury Citation at the 1993 Toronto Film Festival, and, most recently, I Saw You (2013).

Invention, world premiere in Wavelengths, 80 min.

•    Shot over a period of two years in Paris, São Paulo and Toronto, Invention is an anthology of 14 films by Mark Lewis. From famous corners of the Louvre Museum to the modernist buildings of Oscar Niemeyer in Brazil and Mies van der Rohe in Canada, Lewis takes us on a dynamic tour of fluctuating cityscapes, capturing the texture of these places, their landmarks, and the people who inhabit their streets and buildings, with images of glass, light, reflections, concrete, spiral staircases—and paintings. An homage to the City Symphony films of the 1920s, Invention offers a searching love letter to urban spaces, art and cinema.
•    Invention is a Mark Lewis Studio production in co-production with the NFB and in association with Soda Film + Art. The producers are Eve Gabereau (Soda Film + Art), Gerry Flahive and Anita Lee (NFB), with Emily Morgan as co-producer (Soda Film + Art). The executive producers are Anita Lee (NFB), Daniel Faria (Mark Lewis Studio) and Serge Le Borgne (Mark Lewis Studio).
•    Mark Lewis is a leading contemporary visual artist. In 2009, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale and his work was the subject of a retrospective at TIFF. Much of his work focuses on the technology of film and different genres that have developed over 100 years of cinema history. He has been part of museum shows at the National Gallery of Canada, MoMA (New York), BFI Southbank (London), Centre Pompidou (Paris), among others, and has shot a film in the National Gallery (London).
•    Invention is his second collaboration with the NFB, following Cold Morning: Trilogy (2009), which screened in TIFF’s Future Projections program.

The Forbidden Room, Canadian premiere in Wavelengths, 128 min.

•    If Canadian wunderkind Guy Maddin is Winnipeg’s own living film legend, The Forbidden Room is his ultimate epic phantasmagoria. Honouring classic cinema while electrocuting it with energy, this Russian nesting doll of a film begins with the crew of a doomed submarine chewing flapjacks in a desperate attempt to breathe the oxygen within. Suddenly, impossibly, a lost woodsman wanders into their company and tells his tale of escaping from a fearsome clan of cave dwellers. From here, Maddin takes us high into the air, around the world, and into dreamscapes, spinning tales of amnesia and captivity, deception and murder, skeleton women and vampire bananas. Playing like some glorious meeting between Italo Calvino, Sergei Eisenstein and a perverted six-year-old child, The Forbidden Room is Maddin’s grand ode to lost cinema.
•    Directed by Guy Maddin and co-directed by Evan Johnson, The Forbidden Room is written by Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson and Robert Kotyk. The film is produced by Phyllis Laing, Guy Maddin, David Christensen (NFB), Phoebe Greenberg and Penny Mancuso. The executive producers are David Christensen (NFB), Niv Fichman, Jody Shapiro and François-Pierre Clavel. The Forbidden Room is a Phi Films and Buffalo Gal Pictures production in co-production with the NFB’s Northwest Centre.
•    The Forbidden Room grew out of Maddin’s interactive NFB project, Seances, an immersive web experience that will resurrect and recombine lost films from the silent era. Maddin previously worked with the NFB on Night Mayor (2009), commissioned to help mark the NFB’s 70th anniversary, and his short film Nude Caboose (2006), part of the NFB’s pioneering mobile series Shorts in Motion: The Art of Seduction.

Films in Short Cuts

BAM, world premiere, 5 min 48 s.

•    A modern adaptation of the myth of Hercules, BAM tells the story of a young boxer struggling to negotiate between his shy, bookish nature and a divinely violent temper.  Where does this rage come from? Is it psychological or environmental―or is it something altogether more primordial?
•    Shia gets help and inspiration from family, with his musical brothers—hip-hop artist Leo Shia (a.k.a. LEO37) and composer Tim Shia—co-creating the film’s soundtrack. Reflecting on the complexities of masculine identity, Shia draws from the experience of his Taiwanese grandfather, who was a top-ranking police official as well as an acclaimed calligrapher and poet.
•    Howie Shia’s fifth short film with the NFB, BAM is directed by Howie Shia, with Maral Mohammadian as producer and Michael Fukushima as executive producer for the NFB’s Animation Studio.

Quiet Zone, Canadian premiere, 14 min.

•    Using complex imagery and sound, the filmmakers take us deep into the world of people who suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity. Combining elements of documentary, film essay and experimental film, Quiet Zone defies genres, weaving together an unusual story in which image and sound distort reality to make the distress of these “wave refugees” palpable.
•    Quiet Zone is a film by Karl Lemieux and David Bryant, produced and executive produced by Julie Roy for the NFB’s French-language Animation Studio. This is Lemieux’s second collaboration with the NFB, following Mamori (2010), and the directorial debut of David Bryant.
•    Karl Lemieux’s independent film work includes directing Motion of Light (2004), Western Sunburn (2006) and Passage (2007) as well as numerous live cinema performances with avant-garde musicians. A co-founder of the Double Negative collective, he has been a collaborator with Godspeed You! Black Emperor since 2010.
•    Guitarist, musician and sound designer David Bryant is a member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and has also worked with bands Hiss Tracts and Set Fire to Flames. In 2004, he built the Pines Recording Studio, a key venue for contemporary music in Montreal, and has produced the music and sound design for the NFB animated short Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, 2007) as well as Lemieux’s Passage.

Rock the Box, world premiere, 10 min.

•    Electronic Dance Music (EDM) is the most lucrative sector of the music industry, but it’s a world dominated by men, who represent 100 per cent of the genre’s top earners. Rhiannon Rozier wanted to break into that world, but the Vancouver-raised DJ says she ran into the glass ceiling. She couldn’t make it to the next level, so she did something she never thought she would do: she posed for Playboy.
•    Rock the Box is written and directed by Katherine Monk, produced by Shirley Vercruysse and Selwyn Jacob, and executive produced by Shirley Vercruysse for the NFB’s Pacific and Yukon Centre in Vancouver.
•    Katherine Monk is a film critic and writer based in Vancouver. Formerly the national movie critic for Postmedia News, Monk is a regular contributor to CBC Radio, Global Television and Corus Radio and has lectured and taught film at various institutions, including McGill’s Centre for Canadian Studies, Simon Fraser University and Capilano University. She is the bestselling author of Weird Sex and Snowshoes and Other Canadian Film Phenomena—later produced into a documentary feature directed by Jill Sharpe—as well as Joni: The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell. Rock the Box is her first film.

Mobilize, festival premiere, 3 min. 30 s.

•    Guided expertly by those who live on the land and driven by the pulse of the natural world, Caroline Monnet’s Mobilize takes us on an exhilarating journey from the far north to the urban south. Over every landscape, in all conditions, everyday life flows with strength, skill and extreme competence. The fearless polar punk rhythms of Tanya Tagaq’s “Uja” underscore the perpetual negotiation between the modern and traditional by a people always moving forward.
•    Mobilize is part of Souvenir, a series of four short works by Indigenous artists that address Aboriginal identity and representation―created entirely from outtakes of more than 700 NFB films. Souvenir was featured as an installation in Gazing Back, Looking Forward, an exhibition at the Aboriginal Pavilion in Toronto during the 2015 Pan Am/Parapan Am Games.
•    Mobilize is directed by Caroline Monnet, and produced and executive produced for the NFB by Anita Lee of the NFB’s Ontario Centre in Toronto.
•    Algonquin filmmaker and multidisciplinary artist Caroline Monnet is a member of the ITWE Collective, based in Winnipeg and Montreal. She works in film/video, printmaking and installation, and has been exhibiting in galleries and film festivals around the world. Her short videos Ikwé and Warchild were both selected for TIFF, and her most recent short film, Gephyrophobia, was selected for Telefilm’s Not Short on Talent showcase at Cannes.


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About the NFB

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) creates groundbreaking interactive works, social-issue documentaries and auteur animation. The NFB has produced over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 14 Canadian Screen Awards, 11 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.