Press Briefing

July 19, 2013 | 20:47 | Public Domain

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 7/19/2013

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:52 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  I'm here to take your questions, traditional briefing.  I would understand if folks need to go file -- that’s fine.  And I leave it to our friends in the front row to tell me how brief we can keep this.

Q    Yes, keep it short.

MR. CARNEY:  Keep it short.

Q    Yes.

MR. CARNEY:  Let me go to Julie.

Q    I guess just to start off, can you tell us a little bit about the process of having that -- said remarks happen?  Why did the President decide to do it now at the end of the week, almost a week after this verdict?

MR. CARNEY:  I'll just say a couple of things, because the process is far less important than the words the President spoke.  And he wanted to say something and he came out and said it, and he's obviously mindful of the discussions that have been going on.

I think some of us had discussions earlier this week that when -- he was certainly prepared to take questions on this issue when he had some interviews earlier in the week, and would have answered them in probably similar fashion.  But he felt like today was a good day to speak about it.

Q    And then just on Detroit, the Vice President said in his event earlier today that there have been some meetings at the White House on the situation there.  Is there any type of federal response or federal assistance that the White House deems appropriate in this situation?

MR. CARNEY:  You have heard leaders in Michigan say -- and we believe they're correct -- that this is an issue that has to be resolved between Michigan and Detroit and the creditors, when it comes to the insolvency of the city. 

Now, we are, of course, engaged in conversations with -- about policy options and other ways that we can be of assistance to Detroit, and that includes Gene Sperling, and Valerie Jarrett, and Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development -- all of whom have had discussions with the leadership team in Detroit and with leaders in Michigan.

But on the issue of insolvency and on those matters, that’s something that local leaders and creditors are going to have to resolve.  But we will be partners in an effort to assist the city and the state as they move forward. 

Q    Is there any talk of a bailout for Detroit?

MR. CARNEY:  I think, again, I would point you to what we have said and what leaders in Michigan and Detroit have said, which is that on the matter of their insolvency, that’s something for the city and the creditors to resolve.

Q    And how worried are you about the overall impact of this on the U.S. economy?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t have anything concrete to say about that.  We're concerned, obviously, about the citizens of Detroit and of the state, and continuing to assist Detroit in moving forward.  And there has been, obviously, especially when it comes to the automobile industry, remarkable progress since the depths of the great recession, at which time there was the prospect of liquidation or elimination of the automobile industry in this country.  And this President said that was unacceptable to him, and he took action to prevent that from happening.  And now we see month after month and quarter after quarter of robust automobile sales, and some of the best cars being made in the world coming out of Detroit, broadly speaking.

So that’s obviously part of an effort to revitalize an iconic American industry, but one that’s also very linked to this city.

Q    And, Jay, based on the President's remarks, would he like to see the Florida "stand your ground" law be repealed?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that you heard from the President, and I will point you to what the President said on that issue and the other issues that he talked about.

Q    Because he mentioned it specifically.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he spoke -- I think he made a very good point about his views on that, and it reflects -- or rather, in reverse, what I have said earlier this week about state laws and that law is that I think reflects what I knew the President felt, which is that we ought to be examining these and judging them by the standard of whether or not they contribute to or make worse the problem of gun violence.  And I think that is consistent with what the President just said.


Q    Jay, the President's statement seemed very thought out from before he gave the way forward, and even after with his points -- his four or five points on the way forward.  I just want a little tick-tock.  First of all, how long -- how hard was it for you guys to put this together, to make this happen?  Because he came out with some words and some things that we have not heard him say before -- even first-term Obama.  This is second-term Obama with a little bit more depth into issues of race, particularly the African American community.  How hard was that?  And did other communities -- I mean, like people come to him -- Stevie Wonder, who happens to be his friend; Reverend Al Sharpton -- who has he talked to about this?  What kind of bombardment, if there was, on him about that?

MR. CARNEY:  April, I don’t have any sort of internal deliberations or outside conversations to report to you.  This is not hard at all.  The President wanted to say something and he opened the briefing today so that he could say something.  That was pretty much it. 

And when it comes to issues like this, obviously he has conversations with a lot of people, as he does on every issue.  But I don’t think there's any question -- and you can judge by what he just said and how he said it -- that he knows what he thinks, and he knows what he feels, and he has not just in the past week, but for a good portion of his life, given a lot of thought to these issues.

So I think that’s reflected in his pre-political life, with the book that he wrote, and throughout his career in the public world.

Q    And also, on Detroit, during the first term, the Obama administration had Detroit and New Orleans in a certain type of pot, if you will, because they had different issues than the average American city.  And then later on in the administration, they became a regular city, because they were dealing with regular issues like every other city.  But now Detroit is in bankruptcy.  Is Detroit now viewed by this White House in that special pot again, or in that special grouping, because they're having financial woes?  And how do you deal with Detroit now, since it's --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, setting aside categorization, I would simply say that clearly the situation in Detroit is unique at this time given the declaration and the size of the city and the size of the challenges that Detroit faces.

And you can see, based on what I told you about the conversations in meetings about Detroit here in the White House and broadly in the administration, that we’re paying close attention to the challenges that Detroit is facing and looking for ways that we can be of assistance, being clear, as I have been and others have been that -- and including leaders in Michigan and in Detroit -- that the issue here of the insolvency and dealing with that is one that Detroit and Detroit’s creditors will have to resolve.

But we, of course, will be of assistance in general both in terms of policy as well as just being a partner with Detroit as Detroit finds its way and moves forward in the coming weeks, months and years.

Q    And did the President call the Martin family?  Have they talked at all?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any conversations to read out.


Q    On Detroit, the Vice President said that “we talked to them about it.”  Who is “we”?

MR. CARNEY:  I think I said Valerie Jarrett; Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council; Secretary Shaun Donovan, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.  Those are the three principals that I’m aware of who have been in conversations with leaders in Detroit and Michigan.

Q    Not the President or the Vice President?

MR. CARNEY:  Not that I’m aware of, no.


Q    Jay, very quickly, Senators Lindsey Graham and Chuck Schumer have proposed a resolution where they're suggesting that calls for -- they're calling for moving the location of the G20 out of St. Petersburg if there isn’t new progress or changes regarding the situation of Edward Snowden in Russia.  Curious if the White House has any thoughts or has given any consideration to asking them to change.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’d say two things.  The G20 is a body of 20 nations.  Russia is the host of the G20 this year in St. Petersburg, and it is our intention -- the President’s intention to travel to Russia for that meeting.  So I’m not sure exactly what that proposition is meant to suggest.

But on the issue obviously that sparks it, which is the disposition of Mr. Snowden, our message is what it has been, which is that he ought to be expelled and returned here to the United States where he will be afforded all of the significant rights given to defendants in this country as he faces charges related to the unauthorized publication of -- or unauthorized leaking of classified -- very sensitive classified information.

Anybody else?  Roger.

Q    Jay, when you say the city of Detroit needs to work it out with its creditors, are you then ruling out any federal aid of some sort?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that when people ask me the question about -- and others have asked the question about can the -- are we going to solve this problem, I think it’s been made clear by local leaders and state leaders and by us that the broader issue here is one for -- that has to be resolved between the city and its creditors.

We will, of course, as we would with any city in this country, work with that city and have policy discussions with leaders in the city, and make suggestions and offer assistance where we can.  But I think it’s important to say, as I have several times already today, that when local leaders and state leaders say that the matter here of insolvency is one that has to be resolved between the city and its creditors, we concur on that.

Q    Could you give an idea of what kind of -- when you say “assistance,” any idea?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any -- we’re obviously going to work with Detroit, moving forward, to help it move forward, but I don't have a specific idea to present to you today.

Q    But just one other one.  The Federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, does it have any role in a situation like this?

MR. CARNEY:  You're asking the wrong person.  We’ll have to maybe direct that question to Treasury or elsewhere.


Q    Jay, could you give us a few more details on what the President and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed over the phone?  Also, Secretary Kerry met with Palestine leader Mahmoud Abbas today in Ramallah.  What was the message given to him and Palestine? 

Second question on the peace talks with Taliban.  Since Taliban office was closed in Doha almost 10 days ago, is the U.S. administration preparing another plan for Taliban and Afghan government before G20 Summit?

MR. CARNEY:  Okay, let me take these in relative order.  Well, maybe I’ll start with the second question first, which is with regards to Secretary Kerry and his travels, as you know, he’s in the Middle East this week as part of our efforts to bring the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table.  Those meetings are ongoing, and I don't have anything to say at this point that would get ahead of those discussions. 

I believe Secretary Kerry will address some issues perhaps later today.  But I don't have anything from here to say about that beyond noting that he has been working on this issue very hard in trying to get the two parties to return to negotiations.

On the matter of the Taliban, we have said all along that we absolutely believe that reconciliation is the only ultimate path forward for Afghanistan to achieve peace.  Afghans have to have these negotiations with Afghans.  And the Doha office has been a -- is a means by which that process could move forward, but the Taliban has to decide that it wants to move forward.  And if it does not -- if they do not, then we will continue to look for avenues and means for pursuing reconciliation, but ultimately the Taliban have to decide to make that choice themselves. 

So I don’t have any updates for you on that.  We certainly -- again, as a long-term proposition, reconciliation is essential, and that is something -- an opinion we share with the Afghan government, and we will be strong partners with the Afghan government going forward in that effort.  But the Taliban have to decide to participate and under the conditions that we’ve discussed.

Q    And some details, did the President talk with --

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any more details on that.  As you know, the President and the Prime Minister speak and meet with some frequency and discuss a range of issues, both bilateral and related to the region, but I don’t have any more specifics about that phone call.

Q    Jay, after Sandy Hook, why wasn’t “stand your ground” a bigger part of the President and the Vice President’s initiatives on gun violence?  Was it considered too difficult or too contentious?  Or was it not --

MR. CARNEY:  You’re asking me whether a Florida State law was --

Q    Well, no, this was meant to be a comprehensive look at gun violence around the country and wasn’t --

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I concede your point that there are other issues that can be looked at that go beyond even -- or are in addition to what the President’s comprehensive plan to deal with gun violence addresses.  And I think that, as we’ve seen in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, that this is another issue that can be looked at, we believe, not just in Florida but around the country when we’re examining --

Q    Over 30 states have those laws.

MR. CARNEY:  Right.  And the -- I’m not sure that -- you seem to be trying to make some sort of pressing point here.  I think you heard the President talk about, and I’ve talked about, the fact that it would be a good idea for states to review laws like that and make assessments about whether they, in fact, contribute to or reduce gun violence in their communities.  And if they don’t, they should be reexamined and perhaps changed.

Q    Is there any reason we’re hearing about it now and not necessarily before the Martin case -- the Zimmerman case was resolved?

MR. CARNEY:  I think it’s pretty self-evident that the Martin/Zimmerman case elevated awareness about this issue and this problem.

Q    I don’t want to jump the week ahead here, but can you give us some details on the President’s travel plans next week and the economic message that he’s going to be touching on while he’s out in the Midwest?

MR. CARNEY:  On Monday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

On Tuesday, the President will welcome NCAA Champion Louisville Cardinals to the White House to honor the team and their 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  This visit will also continue the tradition begun by President Obama of honoring sports teams for their efforts to give back to communities as part of their trip to Washington.

On Wednesday, the President will travel to Galesburg, Illinois and Warrensburg, Missouri for events on the economy.

On Thursday morning, the President will welcome the President of Vietnam to the White House.  The President welcomes the opportunity to discuss with President Sang how to further strengthen our partnership on regional strategic issues and enhance our cooperation with ASEAN.  The President also looks forward to discussing human rights, emerging challenges such as climate change, and the importance of completing a high standard Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

In the afternoon, the President will travel to Jacksonville, Florida for an event on the economy.

And on Thursday evening, the President will host an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House.

On Friday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.

So beyond the announcement of that travel, I don’t have any more details for you except to say that the economy and the things that we can do help it grow and to strengthen and secure and expand the middle class has been, is, and will be the central focus of the President’s domestic policy.

Q    Is there a reason he’s doing it that week?  I mean, is it anything that it is going to be tied to or --

MR. CARNEY:  We’ll see.  I don’t have any more details for you, Mike, sorry.

Q    Jay, can I just ask you one follow-up question on Jared’s question.  Another law that has a lot of blacks and Hispanics upset is one in New York; it’s a “stop and frisk” law.  Ray Kelly -- who Obama has been very complimentary about in recent days regarding the DHS post -- has overseen this.  Is that the type of law the President would be concerned about, particularly in nominating Ray Kelly?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you’re getting -- on the personnel issues, you’re getting way ahead of yourself and in the process.  So let me leave that there.

And I don’t have -- I haven’t had a conversation with him or anyone here about that particular law.  I think in general, obviously, we’ve had discussions about the “stand your ground” law because of its relevance to the case that put in on the consciousness of so many people.  But I think, broadly speaking, this would be something we would encourage all states to look at in term of ways that we can reduce gun violence in our communities.

All set?

Q    Can I just follow up on the week ahead, please?


Q    It was reported today that he’s also going to talk about immigration on the Midwest trip on Wednesday.  Is that -- can we confirm that?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure where it was reported.  I just reported that he’s going to talk about the economy.

Q    Well, isn’t immigration part of the economy?

MR. CARNEY:  It is.  (Laughter.)  But I have no more details.  In fact, comprehensive immigration reform --

Q    Oh, great.  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  -- I’m sure this is of interest to at least one reporter -- would significantly reduce our deficit, would expand economic growth, would raise wages, and would enhance the creation of innovative businesses by entrepreneurs.  So a win-win no matter how you look at it.

Thanks very much, guys.

2:13 P.M. EDT

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