Press Briefing

March 11, 2014 | 49:22 | 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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Daily Briefing by the Press Secretary Jay Carney, 03/11/14

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:47 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the White House.  I don't have any announcements at the top, so I'll go straight to the Associated Press.  Julie.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  Does the White House believe, as Senator Feinstein said this morning, that the CIA improperly searched a Senate Intel Committee computer network?

MR. CARNEY:  Here’s what I can tell you.  This is a matter involving protocols established in 2009 for the interaction between committee staff and CIA staff and officials as part of the investigation the committee was undergoing.  There have been periodic disputes about that process and, as you know, this is under investigation, these matters are under two separate investigations -- an IG review as well as a referral to the Department of Justice.  So I'm not going to provide an analysis or assessment about --

Q    That referral to the Department of Justice is not necessarily an investigation.  Are you confirming there’s now an investigation --

MR. CARNEY:  No, I'm not.  I would refer you to the Justice Department for any action they may or may not take.  But I'm saying that this is because of a referral because of the IG review.  In terms of allegations about activity, I'm not going to get into that.  What I can say is that -- you saw the CIA Director say today that if there was any inappropriate activity by the CIA or SSCI staff he would, of course, want to get to the bottom of it.  And certainly the President would agree with that.

Q    But John Brennan was really careful in his language this morning.  He said there hadn’t been any CIA hacking of the Senate Intel computer network.  Can you at least say that the White House was aware that there was a search that happened, whether or not you believe it was proper?

MR. CARNEY:  Any specifics about the charges I'm not going to get into.  What I can tell you is a couple of things.  First, it’s important to stand back and look at what we're talking about here.  We are talking about an investigation into activities that occurred under the previous administration that then candidate Barack Obama strenuously opposed, that he promised to end and which he ended very shortly after being sworn into office.  He supports -- the President does and the administration does -- the committee’s investigation, its work.  In fact, the President has made clear he seeks the declassification of the findings of that report when it is completed.  So I think that's important as a starting point.

And again, when it comes to the interactions between the agency, on the one hand, and the committee, on the other, these are matters that are under review by an IG and are the subject of a referral to the Justice Department, so I'm not going to get into specifics about allegations.

Q    Senator Feinstein said that in 2010, when the CIA, she alleges, took documents off of this computer network, she brought this to the White House, had a conversation with the White House counsel.  Do you know if she’s brought this matter of the January search to the White House counsel?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don't have -- well, I don't have a specific readout of any meeting.  What I can say is the White House counsel would get involved in this kind of discussion about this process because of institutional concerns surrounding these matters, again, even in this case, matters that involve a previous administration or previous White House.

Q    So the White House counsel has been involved in conversations about this January search?

MR. CARNEY:  That's not what I said.  I don't have a specific --

Q    You said they would be involved.

MR. CARNEY:  Again, they would be involved in discussions about some of the issues between the committee and the CIA because of institutional concerns involving prerogatives and national security issues, again, having to do with the previous administration or previous White House.

Q    And has the President or any senior staff spoken to John Brennan about this matter?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, let me just say, folks here and in the administration have been in regular consultation with Chairman Feinstein about the broader issues here.  We’ve made clear that we want to see the report’s findings declassified.  And obviously, there have been conversations as a routine matter between the administration, the White House, the Director and the Chairman.


Q    I wanted to ask you about Malaysia briefly.  Is the FBI not sending a team?  Have the other U.S. officials participating in the investigation arrived and made any reports yet that you can talk about?  And also, could you comment on the Iranian origin of the two individuals who appear to have used stolen passports to board the flight?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can tell you is that the United States government is in communication across agencies and with international partners to provide any appropriate assistance in the investigation.  Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration have arrived in the region to provide necessary assistance -- any necessary assistance.  The FBI is involved, also providing assistance.  But in terms of officials that have arrived, that’s from the NTSP and the FAA. 

Also, the 7th Fleet has sent assets to assist in search efforts.  These include a PC-3 Orion aircraft from the Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, which has long-range search radar and communications capabilities to contribute to the search efforts. In addition to the USS Pinckney, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the USS Kidd, an Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer, is now in the vicinity and they have helicopters equipped for search efforts on board.

The Pinckney and Kidd are working alongside a host of other nations -- U.S., China, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia.  As of this morning, there are a total of 22 fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and 40 ships that are searching for Flight 370.  So this is an international effort.

On the matter that you raised in terms of the passports, I can tell you that we do not have enough information -- and this was the case yesterday -- to comment on the causes of this incident.  I would note what Interpol has said about those issues involving the fraudulent passports, but we don’t have any information at this point yet that would allow us to make a conclusion about the cause.

Q    On Ukraine, the United States is today conducting joint air drills in Poland and, apparently, also planning joint exercises with Bulgaria and Romania in the Black Sea.  What, if any, message should Russia draw from those exercises?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, that we obviously have provided stepped-up assistance to those countries, in this case, and this is part of our effort to work with our international partners and allies and to speak in a clear voice, together, that the actions taken by Russia to intervene militarily in contravention of international law and in violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity is something that we all oppose.

So we are working to see if the Russians are willing to resolve this matter diplomatically.  Secretary Kerry has been in regular contact with Foreign Minister Lavrov; they spoke again today.  And those conversations will continue. 

In the meantime, as we’ve made clear, there have been and there will be costs to Russia’s action.  And we have a flexible tool in the executive order that the President signed that will allow us to calibrate the cost depending on the decisions that Russia makes, depending on whether or not Russia decides to avail itself of an opportunity here to pursue its concerns in Ukraine in a peaceful, diplomatic way.

Q    On to a domestic issue, if I could -- this is about the GM recall.  This is a recall affecting something like 1.6 million cars for a flaw that was responsible for 13 deaths, of problems first reported 10 years ago, and Congress is now investigating the regulator’s response.  Is the White House satisfied with the way the regulator handled this?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I can tell you that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a formal investigation into whether GM shared the information they had about this issue as quickly as they should have.  So since that investigation has been opened, I would have to refer you to the NHTSA for more details.

Q    Thanks.


Q    Getting back to Senator Feinstein’s comments, she said earlier this morning, “the CIA just went and searched the committee’s computer.”  Is it the White House position that she’s wrong?

MR. CARNEY:  Jim, as I think I just said, there’s a review by an Inspector General, there’s a referral to the Department of Justice, so I’m not going to comment on specific allegations about the disputes over the protocols that were established in 2009.

Q    Senator Feinstein is pretty careful about what she says and does not say on the Senate floor.  For her to go -- for the Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee to go to the floor and make that kind of serious allegation, it just seems that it would warrant a stronger response from this White House as to whether or not it’s true, not just come back with, we’ll get back to you on this.

MR. CARNEY:  No, that’s not what I said, Jim.  I think you might have noted that the Director of the CIA gave an interview today in which he addressed these issues on the record.

Q    -- on hacking.  She’s saying searching computers.

MR. CARNEY:  He was asked many questions by one of Chuck’s colleagues and answered them I think forthrightly.  So I would point you to the CIA Director’s comments.  And then I would note that there is an active Inspector General review of this matter; there is referral to the Department of Justice, so I can refer you to the Justice Department. 

And I can say that, again, the White House’s perspective on this is reflected in the fact that we have made clear to the committee that we support declassification of the findings of the report.  That report, as I understand it, again, looking at what the CIA Director said today, has not been submitted for declassification yet.  But we support that process.  After all, this is an investigation into practices that the President strongly opposed, that he made clear that were inconsistent with our values as a nation and that he ended shortly after taking office.

Q    And getting back to Crimea, you mentioned that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov had spoken.  Have the Russians acknowledged these moves that they’ve taken in Crimea?  I know that as of late last week, there were still some questions as to whether they’d even acknowledged having forces in Crimea.  Has President Putin acknowledged this?  Has the Foreign Minister acknowledged this?
MR. CARNEY:  It’s fair to say -- and this is reflected in public comments -- that there is a disagreement about basic facts and, on the one hand, you have the facts as we know them, that are clearly established and that are agreed to by people around the region and the world, and then the facts being asserted by Russian government officials that just don’t reflect what’s actually happened.  And, again, as I’ve said over the past week, the reports about lawlessness or abuse of Russian ethnic Ukrainians in Eastern Ukraine have no credible foundation as far as we can say. 

Q    No progress has been made on just agreeing on what the facts are?
MR. CARNEY:  Well, our focus is on resolving this diplomatically and peacefully.  We acknowledge that Russia has real interests in Ukraine, and deep, historical, cultural and economic ties to Ukraine.  And we believe that it is entirely appropriate and possible for Ukraine to integrate further with Europe, which is what so many Ukrainians desire, and even as it does so, maintain its very close and important relationship and ties to Russia.  That is as it should be, in our view, and it is as it should be because it is what the Ukrainian people have expressed they want. 

What is not acceptable is a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity.  And that is what we have seen.  And we are working very hard diplomatically on an effort to have the Russians pursue an off-ramp here -- to take an off-ramp here so that these disputes can be resolved diplomatically.  If the concern here is about the plight of ethnic Russians in Crimea or in other parts of Ukraine, there is a way to address that that does not require the illegal mobilization of foreign troops or the annexation of -- an illegal annexation of the sovereign territory of another state.

Q    And can I ask you very quickly about  I notice you’re not “standing between two ferns,” but I just wanted -- does the President have an expectation as to where you’re going to be -- do you guys have an expectation as to where you’re going to be at the end of this month?  I know we might here some enrollment numbers later today. 

MR. CARNEY:  I believe that’s the case that CMS will be releasing figures through February.  There’s been some reporting that I think already indicates roughly where we’re going to be.  And we’re confident in this final month of the open enrollment period that a lot of Americans are going to sign up and that a lot of young Americans are going to sign up.  We saw that in earlier numbers, that the growth in enrollments is substantial in the 18-34 age category, and we expect that to continue.

The President’s interview with Zach Galifianakis on Between Two Ferns was designed to reach Americans where they live.  And they watch the show in huge numbers -- I think the average video gets something like 6 million views.  I'm convinced we're going to break that average.  And in fact, as I was walking out here, I think we were close to 3 million, and that's a good thing.  More importantly, we have seen that Funny or Die -- at least, again, as I was walking out here -- was the number-one referral to -- referral source late this morning.  So that's a good thing.  We're engaged in an effort to reach every -- what did you say?

Q    -- everything else --

MR. CARNEY:  I think what it says is that gone are the days when your broadcasts, or yours, or yours, can reach everybody that we need to reach.  And --  

Q    You bring in Zach Galifianakis and all your problems are solved?

MR. CARNEY:  I didn’t say that.  We're involved in a multifaceted effort to reach communities out there of folks who can benefit from quality, affordable health insurance, can avail themselves of the options that they’ll find on  And we're looking for creative ways to do that.  This was one of them.

Q    -- explain that, though?  If it's the number-one referral -- like how many referrals did you get from that?  What does that mean?

MR. CARNEY:  CMS might have it.  It means that --

Q    Today, they would --

MR. CARNEY:  Since it went live, the number of referrals to or site referrals was highest from Funny or Die, as I understand it. 

Q    -- information on how many referrals you got from Zach Galifianakis?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have a specific number.  The point is not the number within a few hours, but that very quickly this video went viral and that -- not just because people thought it was funny and the regular viewers of Funny or Die clicked on it and watched it, but that it was getting folks -- the video itself was causing the action that we hoped it would cause, which is getting folks to go to and look at the options available to them and hopefully enroll. 

Q    Can you make sure we get those numbers?  Because we need to be able to verify.  You can't just say this is where all the referrals are coming from without a number to back that up.

MR. CARNEY:  We’ll get you the information we have on it.  I mean it's -- we'll get you the information we have.  This is part of an effort to enroll as many people as we can before the open enrollment period [ends].  And you’ll obviously judge very critically when the time comes how we've done in that effort, as you have all along.  I can assure you that the Funny or Die video will be one of the reasons we get young Americans to, one of the reasons we get young Americans to enroll in health insurance programs, but not the only way.

Q    Jay, how much discussion was there in the White House about the dignity of the office and whether or not -- in order to reach these people who don't watch us at 6:30 p.m., or who don't watch this briefing -- how much -- the balance there, how much the dignity of the office might be lost?  This was an interview like no other probably ever done by a President. 

MR. CARNEY:  Safe to say.

Q    So how much discussion was there in the White House about this?

MR. CARNEY:  We're constantly looking at different ways to reach Americans who don't necessarily get information about from evening news broadcasts or from the newspapers, but who might either watch the town hall we did last week with Spanish-language networks, or watch Funny or Die, or watch some of the other things we've done -- the webMD interview that we're doing, and get the information they need or at least get motivated to find the information they need to decide whether or not they’re going to enroll.

Q    I understand the purpose, but was the presidency in any way -- the presidency -- damaged or --


Q    -- lost dignity because of this?

MR. CARNEY:  I mean, we obviously assess opportunities that we have and look at whether or not they’re going to be successful and wise.  I think we made the right call here.

Q    Did the President know the questions that were going to be asked?  Was it a comedy routine that was done in advance, or was this an actual interview?  How much did he know about what going to happen?

MR. CARNEY:  I think we knew that there would be an opportunity to talk about -- as the President says in it, that's why he was doing it -- and sort of loosely what the interview might look like.  But there’s a lot of adlibbing in there.

Q    Would you call it scripted, or no?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't get into -- you can ask the Funny or Die people.  I can tell you there’s a lot of adlibbing. 

Q    On the CIA allegations from Senator Feinstein, two things are on the table -- a violation of the 4th Amendment, alleged; violation of an executive order against domestic spying, alleged -- serious allegations.  Do either of those raise in the President’s mind doubts about what the CIA has done on his watch or John Brennan’s leadership of the agency?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has great confidence in John Brennan and confidence in our intelligence community and in professionals at the CIA.  On the specific matters that you correctly noted are alleged, they’re under review and I'm not going to comment on particulars of matters that are under review. I would point you to what the Director of the CIA said today publicly.

Q    You mentioned that this administration is supportive of declassification of the Senate report.  As you know, there are responses from the CIA to that Senate report, also classified, and a separate report that was ordered by Leon Panetta when he was CIA Director, also classified.  Does this administration support the declassification of those other two sources of information and back-and-forth about the underlying question?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have an answer to the questions about other reports.  What I can tell you is we support declassification of the findings of the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report and that that review or report is still being worked on, as I understand it, and has not yet been completed and, thus, submitted for assessment and declassification, which obviously is an important process because of the matters that are subject of the review.

But we strongly support that, and we strongly -- again, let’s remember what this is about.  This is about so-called enhanced interrogation techniques that this President made very clear he opposed as a candidate and when he was in the Senate, that he pledged to end because he did not believe the techniques were consistent with our values as a nation and that he did end very soon after taking the oath of office.

Q    Well, let me follow the logic of the President supporting the CIA and the CIA Director.  Brennan said at the Council of Foreign Relations this morning that the Senate report has a lot of things which he disagrees with -- contentions, point of facts.  He said there were nuances missed.  So for the public’s understanding of this issue why not also support declassification of the CIA answers and the Panetta report --

MR. CARNEY:  I'll take the question, Major.  What I know is we support and have long supported the declassification of the findings of the SSCI report.  What I also would point -- we're talking about the findings here, and that would be findings and assessments and conclusions that you just noted.  But on the other matters, I'll have to take the question.

Q    Okay.  On Ukraine, can you help us understand if there is something you're trying to tell the international community, and specifically Vladimir Putin, when you say that Russia has real interests in Ukraine, deep historical ties?  Is there a way that this can be finessed so that Crimea stays a part of Ukraine but Russian interests are politically recognized in a more visible way or a more palatable way to Russia?  In other words, that this can be solved while meeting both the interests of now a government that’s not only patrolling the streets, cutting off the Internet, shutting down all media, putting a complete stranglehold on a part of a sovereign nation -- can you get them to back away from that and find a way to thread a needle diplomatically and politically?  Is that the ultimate goal here? And if that is the ultimate goal, can you explain what that might look like?

MR. CARNEY:  The goal is to see the situation deescalate and for the Russian military personnel that are in Crimea to return to their bases and to return to levels that are consistent with the basing agreement Russia has with Ukraine, and for all violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty by a foreign nation and violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity to cease. 

What we’re talking about when we say that we absolutely recognize that Russia has interests in Ukraine and they include in Crimea, we’re referring specifically to the Black Sea Fleet base, for example, which is in Crimea, a Russian naval base, as part of an agreement with the sovereign nation of Ukraine and that we completely respect that.  And that’s consistent with our support for the Budapest Memorandum of 1994 that establishes that agreement, and is consistent with the way we’ve approached this challenge. 

We’re also sympathetic to concerns that Russia has as a general matter when it comes to either Russian nationals or ethnic Russians in Ukraine and whether or not their rights are being protected.  And that’s why we support dialogue between the Russian and Ukrainian government with international partners as part of a process that would lead to sending of international monitors from the OSCE or the United Nations who can on the ground assess whether or not the rights of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine or Crimea or anywhere else are in jeopardy or being violated. 

We have noted that thus far reports that that is happening haven’t proven to be credible, but we would certainly make clear and have made clear that it is our expectation that the Ukrainian government honor the rights of all of its citizens.

Q    Does there come a point where Russian behavior in Crimea -- meaning these patrols, the cutting off of media, blocking of the Internet -- erases their legitimate other interests there because they have acted as an international bully?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the best way to look at this, Major, is that there is an opportunity here to prevent the situation from becoming more acute and to prevent the cost to Russia from becoming even higher. 

There have been and there will be costs for the actions that Russia has already taken by intervening militarily in a sovereign state.  We’ve talked about those at least from the United States. We’ve seen actions taken by the European Union.  And as you know, we are able to, because of the powers spelled out in the executive order, calibrate sanctions and other actions depending on the steps that Russia takes. 

As I noted, I think yesterday, there are a lot of costs here associated with Russia’s decision to take this action in violation of international law.  It is certainly not in Russia’s long-term interests to have a destabilized Ukraine.  It is not in Russia’s interests to find itself isolated from international opinion on these matters, and certainly not in Russia’s interests economically to see investors around the world think twice about whether or not Russia is the proper environment for further investment given the actions that Russia has taken and the international reaction to those actions.  So we are urging Russia to work with the international community to pursue a path of deescalation and a path of dialogue with the Ukrainian government so that these matters can be resolved.


Q    Jay, on the CIA, you started out by saying you can’t say much because the Inspector General of the CIA is investigating this.  How can we trust the CIA to investigate itself on whether it covered up something?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, you know that inspectors general are independent, correct?

Q    They’re supposed to be, by law.

MR. CARNEY:  Are you doubting his independence or her independence?

Q    In general, inspectors general independence has been questioned, yes.  So you’re confident the CIA Inspector General will get to the bottom of it?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that there is an inspector general review, an IG review underway.  As I mentioned, there is also a referral to the Department of Justice.  And so, since these matters are generally under investigation, I’m not going to get into specific allegations.  I would also point you to what the Director of the CIA himself said about these matters, which is that, “If there was any inappropriate actions that were taken related to that review either by CIA or by the SSCI staff” -- that’s the committee staff -- “I’d be the first to say we need to get to the bottom of it.”  And certainly, as a general principle, we support that view. 

Q    But would the White House consider an independent counsel, or you’re confident the CIA can handle this?

MR. CARNEY:  I think you’re, as a general matter, impugning the independence of inspectors general around town.

Q    Well, I’m asking would you consider an independent counsel?

MR. CARNEY:  I would note that you cited inspector general reports frequently in the past.  But I think that this is under review.

Q    You also correctly pointed out that the alleged abuses on detention that are in the report, the detention abuses happened under the Bush administration.  However, a Democratic Senator, Dianne Feinstein, is alleging that Senate aides’ computer files were gone through by the CIA, as was suggested earlier, during the Obama administration.  Is the White House Counsel involved at all in conducting a review to make sure that the administration itself knows exactly what happened?

MR. CARNEY:  The Inspector General is conducting a review, and there is a referral to the Department of Justice.  That is, in each -- I mean, certainly with the Inspector General that’s the appropriate avenues for these things -- by which these things can be investigated and reviewed.  I noted earlier the role that White House Counsel has played in discussions about the process and disputes about the process since protocols were put in place in 2009, but when it comes to an investigation -- or a review, as it’s called by the IG -- that’s for the IG to do.

Q    Last one, then.  If you take a step back from this particular investigation, over the last year or so the American people have seen that the surveillance by the NSA was a lot wider than originally suggested to the American people, that reporters’ phone records at the AP and FOX were gone through, and that now we’re hearing that maybe Senate aides had their computer files gone through.  Why should the American people trust some of these intelligence agencies?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, Ed, when it comes to this specific set of allegations and reports that are under review, I can’t comment on them, and I won’t.  What I can say is that we support what Director Brennan said today, which is that if there’s any inappropriate actions that are discovered through the process of these reviews, we would -- we support what the Director said about getting to the bottom of it.

Q    I guess what I don’t understand -- is the administration not troubled -- this is not Darrell Issa making this allegation; this is Dianne Feinstein, Mark Udall, Patrick Leahy, Harry Reid all taking the Senate floor, making this allegation of the CIA.  Is the President even troubled by the allegation?  I mean, you have been very careful not to comment at all.  I would assume that when Democratic senators -- and if he were still one, my guess is he would be on the floor raising this same eyebrow. 

MR. CARNEY:  Chuck, I mean, obviously the President is generally aware of the disputes that have --

Q    He’s aware, but not troubled?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to characterize his point of view on allegations that are under investigation.  What I can say as a general matter is that everyone in this administration supports the perspective that Director Brennan expressed to Andrea Mitchell a couple of hours ago about the fact that if there’s any inappropriate activity that’s uncovered by these investigations, that he would support getting to the bottom of it.  So that’s certainly our view, it’s the administration’s view.

Q    But this seems to be, then, either he’s not running the CIA and he’s got folks that are being rogue underneath him and doing this without him, or he’s been involved in this.

MR. CARNEY:  You’re basing a question on a hypothetical about an outcome of an investigation.

Q    It’s not a hypothetical.  Dianne Feinstein is the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee making this allegation.

MR. CARNEY:  The allegation -- absolutely, the allegation exists and it’s under investigation.

Q    This is not -- again, this is not Darrell Issa; this is not some partisan hit.

MR. CARNEY:  Absolutely.  And we work very closely with Chairman Feinstein and --

Q    But protects everything else, been very supportive of most of the controversial intelligence decisions that’s made by this administration.  So one would think she’s got a lot of credibility here if she’s going to make an allegation like that.

MR. CARNEY:  And what I would say is that, appropriately, these matters are under review by the authorities that are supposed to review them, and that I’m not going to make an assessment about allegations that are under review or investigation.

Q    How long has the President been aware of these allegations?  Is it since Udall wrote the letter --

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a specific conversation involving anyone here to report except to say that there is general communication obviously between the Chairman and the White House and the Director on a range of issues, including matters involving the SSCI report.

Q    But it’s fair to say it seems the President accepts Director Brennan’s answers on this more so -- it seems that Director Brennan is more credible than Dianne Feinstein here?  I mean, that’s what it sounds like.

MR. CARNEY:  Chuck, I invite you to make judgments.  That’s partly what you’re paid to do.  What I can tell you is that’s not what I said.  I said that we are not making assessments publicly about allegations that have been made.  We are interested in making sure that the proper authorities review and investigate them, and if there is any inappropriate activity we would want to get to the bottom of it.

Q    Is the President confident that Director Brennan has been straightforward with him about his version of events on this?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has great confidence in Director Brennan, yes.

Q    He’s confident on his version of events?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes -- well, he’s confident in Director Brennan.  I haven’t been privy to conversations between him and the President on -- and I’m not getting into specific conversations about specific subjects except to say that in general there have been communications between the White House, the Committee Chairman and the Director.

Q    Just to go back -- Senator Feinstein is alleging a violation of separation of powers.

MR. CARNEY:  Your colleagues are beginning to look pained, Chuck.

Q    I understand that, but you have been very sort of blasé and not answering.  It just seems like if a U.S. senator is making an allegation -- a U.S. senator that’s normally on your side -- an allegation that there’s a violation of separation of powers here, that’s pretty serious.

MR. CARNEY:  We take everything she says very seriously, and we take this seriously.  But I’m not going to comment on matters that are under investigation or review by the appropriate authorities. 


Q    How do you expect this fallout with Russia over Ukraine to affect cooperation on Syria, for example, on cooperation on the destruction of the CW and on the peace process?

MR. CARNEY:  We obviously have very important cooperation with Russia on the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.  We have important cooperation with Russia on other matters, including the issues that are subject to negotiation with the P5-plus-1 and Iran’s nuclear program.  And we intend to continue to work with all of our partners on those issues.  And I would note, with regard to the matter of Syria’s chemical weapons that Russia has played a leading role in making a commitment on behalf of the Assad regime that those chemical weapons stockpiles would be gathered together, removed from the country and destroyed.  And so Russia has responsibilities to the international community to fulfill those commitments.

And having said that, we’re obviously very clear about our views of the actions that Russia has taken in Ukraine, in particular in Crimea, and are very blunt about those views.

We are also very clear in our dealings with Russian officials that there is an avenue here to deescalate the situation and work with the international community to address the concerns that Russia has, ways that are consistent with international law, consistent with the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Q    Jay --

MR. CARNEY:  Go ahead.

Q    No, just a different question.  Can you share some information with us about Susan Rice’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, a meeting with the Saudis, and whether this is in preparation to the President’s visit to Riyadh soon?

MR. CARNEY:  I think we had a readout of that -- of her trip.  I don't have anything more specific on it right now.  I would refer you to the NSC press office.


Q    The President has a pair of fundraisers tonight, and recently he’s been warning of complacency among Democrats in the midterm election year.  I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about why that's a worry for him, and what he plans to do -- aside from attending fundraisers -- to shake the Democrats up and make sure they're not complacent?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he’ll support Democrats and the committees consistent with the way he supported them in the past. I think the observation about complacency is more about statistical reality when it comes to who votes in midterm elections.  And it’s certainly been the case that Democrats tend not to turn out in the same numbers in midterms as Republicans do. 

And so the President and everyone else involved in the effort to support Democratic candidates and incumbents is making the case that it’s really important to turn out and exercise your right to vote, whoever you are.  So that's, I think -- that explains that argument.

And he’s going to do a number of things over the course of the year between now and November to support candidates and support the party.


Q    Jay, could you talk to us about the numbers that are expected to come out?  I know you say CMS, but there’s been a constant call from reporters about the breakdown numbers of those who are enrolling.  Are you really expecting I guess accurate -- as accurate stats as you can get, especially as persons who are enrolling have the option to fill out information about themselves like race, gender, and even age?

MR. CARNEY:  What I can say, April, is that we are careful about making sure that the numbers we release are accurate.  That explains why some of the numbers take some time to gather and vet to make sure that they're accurate.  And that's particularly true when it comes to sort of numbers that are below the topline, not just total enrollments, but how they break down, how they break down by age.

So I would point you to CMS in terms of how they reach those numbers and which numbers they're confident in, in terms of the breakdowns.  In terms of other demographic data, I’m not really sure about that.  I know that we have put out information about  -- in the past about the percentage of enrollees who fall into that 18 to 34 category.  But I would refer you to them in terms of what specifically they're going to release this afternoon.  I think it’s numbers through February, or through March 1st.  In terms of how they break them down, I’d refer you to them.

Q    I say that saying -- because, for instance, this Funny or Die video, there’s a certain core group you’re trying to go after with that video.  Then there was a major push for African Americans.  But it strikes us as odd that you make this push to get these groups to come in, and you cannot quantitatively find which group -- how many people from that group are enrolled.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don't know that that's the case, or how long it takes to compile that data or what is available because of the way that folks fill out their information, and the way that insurance companies provide that information.

What I know is that we’re releasing the data that we feel is accurate on a consistent basis.  We’ve done that all along.  And in the end, we’re confident that by the end of this open enrollment period on March 31st we are going to see that a substantial number of Americans enrolled and purchased health insurance, and that the mix will be sufficient to ensure that the marketplace -- and the marketplaces -- functions effectively.

We’ve seen that already with numbers of young Americans hitting a percentage in terms of the overall figure for enrollment that's consistent with what we saw in Massachusetts when they were in their first open enrollment period.  And we’re confident that come March 31st we’re going to see a mix that ensures the effectiveness of the marketplaces.

And every targeted effort that you’re talking about is designed to make sure that's the case, and this is an across-the-board effort and it’s going to continue right up until the end.  But we’re confident that we’re on track to get sufficient numbers and the kind of breakdown demographically that will make sure -- that will ensure that the marketplaces are effective.

Q    But the number from Massachusetts for young people, it wasn’t the number -- that wasn’t your target when you started. 

MR. CARNEY:  No --

Q    In other words, you had a higher target number.

MR. CARNEY:  No, the so-called target was simply a fact about the percentage of people who are uninsured who are young Americans, not the percentage of young Americans you needed to make sure that the demographic pool worked actuarially.  And what you saw in Massachusetts, I think the figure was roughly --

Q    Twenty-five --

MR. CARNEY:  -- 25 to 27 percent is where we were at the same stage in the open enrollment period.

Q    On the CIA torture report, you said that the White House supports declassifying it and releasing it.  Does that include over the objections of the CIA --

MR. CARNEY:  No, I think Director Brennan spoke today about he is awaiting the submission of the report so that they can work to declassify it.  There’s obviously -- with all kinds of reports like these that involve highly classified information, the declassification process is one that has to be engaged in by the agencies involved, in this case CIA.

Q    And some have suggested that the President himself has the authority to do it.  Is there any talk of him --

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not sure that that's the case, but I can tell you that he has made clear to the committee --

Q    Presidents can declassify whatever they want, right?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that may be the case, Chuck.  The President has made clear as President that he wants to see the findings declassified.  He’s made that clear to the committee.  He’s made that clear to the CIA.  He’s made that clear to everyone.  He’s made it clear to you.

Q    Is there any deadline for that?  There’s been a number of --

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think we are -- I think the Director is waiting for the submission of the report, so it’s hard to put a deadline on something that they haven’t gotten yet.

Q    And Congress has said that the White House has some of the documents that it’s been asking for.  Will the White House give those over to Congress?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I don't have -- I’m not aware of that, but I’ll look into it.

Q    Jay, what should Putin’s takeaway be from the President’s meeting tomorrow with the Ukrainian interim Prime Minister?

MR. CARNEY:  That we strongly support Ukraine, the Ukrainian people, and the legitimacy of the new Ukrainian government.

Q    Is the U.S. paying for this guy to come here?  Is he coming on an Air Force plane?  Who is paying for this?

MR. CARNEY:  He’s the Prime Minister of Ukraine.  I would refer you to the government of Ukraine.  I’m not aware of anything besides the fact that he’s coming here to meet with the President.

Q    So, theirs?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't know.

Q    He’s coming under their auspices?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven’t been asked that question or even thought about it.  I would refer you to the government of Ukraine.

Q    Well, you would know if he were coming on a United States Air Force or State --

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll take the question.  I haven’t been asked that question.  I don't know that --

Q    Will you take it?

MR. CARNEY:  Are you saying that -- are you aware that he’s doing that?

Q    No, I’m just asking.

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you to the government of Ukraine, but I’ll also take the question.

Q    President Abbas is coming next week here.  He is still rejecting Israel’s demand for recognition as a Jewish state.  What’s the White House reaction?

MR. CARNEY:  We recognize that we are approaching a point where the parties will have to make decisions about how to forward, and this means grappling with incredibly difficult and complex issues that have divided them for too long.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas have already made courageous, difficult decisions, and that is a testament to their determination to try to resolve this issue.

It is our hope that the Prime Minister and President Abbas can reach past any remaining differences and arrive at a framework that moves the process forward towards peace.  The United States will continue to encourage both parties in that effort.

Specifically to your question, we have been clear that the United States believes a lasting peace will involve two states  -- Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and the state of Palestine.  We have also been clear that we’re not discussing the details of the negotiations.  These are issues that ultimately the parties have to decide, but suffice it to say that we firmly believe that Israeli and Palestinian needs can be reconciled to produce a just and lasting peace.

Q    I have a follow-up.  The council of the Arab League confirms also its support to President Abbas’s judgment.  Is it a problem for the credibility of the President in the Arab world?

MR. CARNEY:  I can simply repeat what I just said, which is we’re not going to get into the details of the negotiations.  We’ve made our view very clear that a lasting peace will involve two states -- a state of Israel that is Jewish and Democratic, and a state of Palestine.  In terms of the very complex and difficult issues that the two sides have to negotiate, we’re not going to get into the process of those negotiations.

Politico -- last one.

Q    So Senator Feinstein also said that when they were in the midst of, I guess, kind of investigating the situation, they were told that -- that her committee was told by the CIA that the document removal was ordered by the White House, and that the White House responded by denying that there was ever such an order.  And I know you’re obviously not going to comment, as you said throughout the briefing, on ongoing investigations.  But is it at all concerning that a government agency would just try to pawn off what seems like potentially illegal and perhaps unconstitutional action as something that the White House ordered them to do?

MR. CARNEY:  I could diagram that sentence and all the ways that it’s filled with hypotheticals and subjects that are under review, but I won't.  I will simply say that I can’t comment on allegations that are under review.

Q    But it’s not a hypothetical that -- Feinstein said that she --

MR. CARNEY:  Right.  And I said that we take her -- everything she says and her concerns very seriously.

Q    What I’m saying is she said that when she talked to the CIA they said the White House ordered them to take these documents off their server, and then when she talked to the White House they denied that.  So that’s not a hypothetical situation; that’s what she said.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I don’t have a specific conversation between the Chairman and the White House to confirm or relay to you.  The other issues that you’re talking about are allegations that are subject of a review.  So I can’t -- it would be inappropriate for me to talk about it.

Q    Did Senator Feinstein give this White House any indication beforehand she was going to the Senate floor today to make these allegations?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t know the answer to that question.
Q    Can you take the question?

MR. CARNEY:  I can take the question, but I don’t know the answer to it.

Thanks very much.
1:37 P.M. EDT

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