The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

Gaggle en route Andrews Air Force Base from New York by Press Secretary Jay Carney

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Andrews Air Force Base

11:33 A.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.  Thanks for joining us aboard Air Force One as we make our way from New York City to Washington, D.C. to Joint Base Andrews.  I don't have any announcements, so why don't we see if you have any questions.

Q    Jay, do you have further color on the President’s day today, anything he saw, any remarks he made that weren’t public, anything that we could flesh out --

MR. CARNEY:  The President and the First Lady spent some time touring the museum and it is, I think, for everyone and was for them a powerful reminder of the events of September 11, 2001 -- exceptionally well done in the presentation and in the focus on the human tragedy, the heroics of individuals, and the exceptionalism of each person who was lost.  There’s an exhibit that provides information about and photographs of every person who perished on that day and it's very powerful.  I know the President and First Lady felt that it was very powerful.

Q    Jay, separate from the Nabors’s review, the Republican Party is calling for an independent investigation into the VA issue.  Is the White House open to that?

MR. CARNEY:  Are you talking about the letter from the chairman?

Q    Yes.

MR. CARNEY:  I addressed this yesterday.  We're reviewing the letter, but I don't have any announcements beyond the one we made regarding Rob Nabors’s temporary assignment to assist Secretary Shinseki in the review that's being conducted of VHA procedures.  And so at this point, we're focused on making sure that procedures are in place that will ensure that our veterans are getting the health care that they deserve.

Q    This morning, Secretary Shinseki testified before Congress that he’s “mad as hell” about what happened.  Is the President also mad as hell?

MR. CARNEY:  He certainly is very concerned and angry about the allegations that we've seen regarding specifically the Phoenix office.  As Secretary Shinseki noted, and others have noted, we need to find out the truth -- that's why there are investigations and reviews underway.  But certainly, should it be the case that the allegations that have been made are true, that would be outrageous.

Q    -- that made the President decide that someone from the White House -- in this case, Rob Nabors -- needed to go and help? What was sort of the triggering for that decision?

MR. CARNEY:  Secretary Shinseki, in conversations with Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, requested -- or suggested that it would be helpful to have someone assist him in his efforts, and Chief of Staff McDonough agreed and the President agreed.  Rob Nabors, as you know, is one of the President’s most trusted advisors.  He’s held very senior, vital roles in the administration, in the White House -- deputy chief of staff, director of legislative affairs, deputy budget director.  And he also has held in the past, prior to the Obama administration, very senior positions on Capitol Hill.  He’s also the son of an Army veteran and brings that perspective to bear as he takes on this temporary task.

Q    What is the scope of this task?  Like how long will it last?  What are the parameters of it?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have more detail on that.  It is temporary, but I don't have a timeline for you.  And I would refer you to the VA for procedures in terms of moving forward.

Q    What can you tell us about the latest on Boko Haram?  Is there any news on your front?

MR. CARNEY:  I don't have any specific news except to say that our team is in place assisting the Nigerian government as they take the lead in searching for the kidnapped girls.  As I noted yesterday, I believe it was, in addition to the personnel that we have provided from the State Department, the Department of Defense, the FBI and elsewhere, we have also provided assets, including manned and unmanned vehicles for surveillance flights  -- for reconnaissance flights to assist in the search -- by vehicles I mean aircraft, obviously.

Q    Jay, President Putin says that Russia will stop providing gas to Ukraine unless Ukraine pays in advance.  Does the U.S. view this as fresh evidence that Russia is trying to use energy as a weapon in the crisis with Ukraine?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the answer to that question is pretty self-evident.  We have, all along through this crisis, made clear our view that it is inappropriate to use energy as a weapon or a tool against another nation.  And that would certainly be the case in this circumstance. 

We note, as I have in the past, that there are consequences to any move that might disrupt the flow of energy supplies to and through Ukraine, but those consequences would also affect Russia fairly profoundly.

Q    Anything more the U.S. can do if Russia does cut off gas to help Ukraine through that?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, there’s a couple of “ifs” built into that question, so I’m not going to speculate.  But obviously we’re working very closely with the government of Ukraine in providing assistance and working with them on energy security matters, and we’re working closely with our range of European partners on this very subject.

Q    Jay, is there some reason the Vice President wasn’t included in today’s event?

MR. CARNEY:  You would have to -- not that I’m aware of.  You’d have to ask the Vice President’s office.  But I think it was -- the President was here, former President Clinton.  I’m not sure I understand the question. 

Q    How did the Clintons get involved -- included in the tour as opposed to other guests?

MR. CARNEY:  You would have to ask the folks at the museum. I’m not sure.  But obviously the President and First Lady were very happy to have -- to be joined by former President Clinton and former Secretary of State Clinton.

Q    They have any conversation beyond the tour?  Any meeting, sit-down or coffee beforehand, after?

MR. CARNEY:  No.  I mean, there was a lot of moving around and talking, and I don’t have a readout of everything that was said in those conversations, but there was no separate meeting.

Q    Jay, the three nominees for the Federal Reserve Board, Harry Reid is now starting to schedule votes on them.  Is the White House confident they’re going to get through?  Or have you heard anything of concern otherwise?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any update on the status of the nomination process.  Obviously, the President is confident that he has put forward highly qualified nominees and believes that the Senate ought to fulfill its responsibility in this process and then confirm these highly qualified nominees. 

Q    Jay, the President mentioned the story of Welles Crowther this morning, the man with the red bandana.  Did he get a chance today to stop by the exhibit dedicated to his story?  He did?

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, he did.  On the tour that the President and the First Lady took, one of the exhibits contains one of his bandanas, one of his collection of red bandanas.  I think you saw the image of it, and that is from the museum exhibit.

Q    Jay, the President -- the Senate banking panel passed a bill today that would get rid of Fannie and Freddie and overhaul the mortgage system.  Does the President have a view about that legislation?

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll have to take the question.  I haven’t been updated on that legislative process.

Q    Is Vladimir Putin in Europe in the upcoming trip -- is Vladimir Putin is going to the D-Day ceremony?

MR. CARNEY:  My understanding is France has appropriately invited leaders from many countries, including Russia.  I have been asked whether there’s going to be a separate meeting between President Obama and President Putin, and I would not expect that. I would not anticipate that.  The purpose of the visit to Normandy is to commemorate a turning point in the war and heroism of all those who fought in those battles.

Q    The situation between China and Vietnam -- there’s now 21 dead.  What is the White House doing, if anything, to try to help defuse it?  Have there been contacts made or discussion at high levels of the administration with either China or Vietnam? 

MR. CARNEY:  I’d refer you to the State Department for diplomatic efforts that we have been engaged in and I’m sure continue to be engaged in.  Our approach has been to call on both sides of this dispute and obviously other disputes -- similar disputes in the South China Sea to work through the issues and the disputes peacefully and diplomatically, not to use intimidation, not to use -- certainly not to engage in any action that ratchets up tension.  But I don’t have a specific readout of the diplomatic engagement that the United States has undertaken.

Q    The President hasn’t made any calls on that issue?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have any calls to read out on that issue, no. 

11:44 A.M. EDT 

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