Gaggle aboard Air Force One en route Ft. Myers, FL, 7/20/2012
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Fort Myers, Florida
9:48 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us. As you know already, the President was informed by his Advisor for Homeland Security, John Brennan, early this morning, at 5:26 a.m. Eastern time, about the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado.
Not long ago, while he was en route to the airport, he received a follow-up briefing from FBI Director Bob Mueller, his Chief of Staff, Jack Lew, and Advisor for Homeland Security John Brennan. The President was told that at approximately 12:30 a.m. Mountain time, or 2:30 a.m. Eastern time, a male suspect entered a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and opened fire on people watching the midnight premier of the movie "The Dark Knight Rises." The theater is approximately three blocks from police headquarters and law enforcement response was immediate.
The suspect, a young male, possibly in his mid 20s, was taken into custody outside the theater. The FBI and ATF are on the scene and are assisting the Aurora Police Department in this investigation.
The President ordered that his administration do everything that it can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. The President also made clear that we are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, and ensuring the safety of our people and caring for those who have been wounded.
The President also spoke with the Mayor of Aurora. And as you know, after an event in Fort Myers, he will be returning to Washington, where I expect he will get further briefings on the situation in Aurora.
Jen and I are both here to take your questions.
MS. PSAKI: One thing just to announce before we go -- as you know, the President will be addressing the tragedy in Aurora in his remarks in Fort Myers this morning. As Jay mentioned, after that event we'll be returning to Washington. The First Lady has also pulled down her events in Virginia. If we have any other updates, we’ll, of course, keep you abreast of them as the day continues.
Q Is the President confident there’s no other shooters and that this suspect does not have any ties to any organized terrorist groups?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you a couple of things. Moments ago when I spoke to the President about this, he said that this first reaction upon hearing about this was his immediate concern that the incident was over, that no other people were in danger. His second reaction was what you feel as a parent.
I can tell you that this is a local law enforcement investigation at this point, and what we can say is that we do not believe at this point that there is an apparent nexus to terrorism.
Q Can we expect any further statements from the President today after Fort Myers?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any other scheduling updates for you. He will, as Jen said, address the events in Aurora in Fort Myers.
Q Is he canceling the Orlando event out of respect and that it’s not appropriate? Or is the President going back to Washington because he wants to sort of be more somehow informed or on top of this particular -- any kind of federal response to this? As you said it is a local, but is there any sort of tie to that sort of business of the presidency, returning to Washington immediately?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think there are two parts to that question. I think Jen can address the first part.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the events and the tragedy of last night have changed the nature of his remarks this morning, as well as the events of the day. And he feels it’s the appropriate step to take on that front. And today we’re focused on remembering the victims and finding out what happened. And I’ll let Jay speak to what happens when he gets back to Washington.
MR. CARNEY: It is also the case that he wants to be back in Washington to get further updates on this, and I expect you can expect that he will, upon arrival -- of course, he has been thoroughly briefed already by John Brennan and others, but that process will continue both as we’re traveling and upon the President's return to the White House.
Q Any scheduling updates for this weekend related to this, and/or next week's campaign schedule at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Nothing at this point.
Q You don't experience necessarily that the President will stop there on his way to California on Monday?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have any scheduling updates for you.
Q Jay, after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting, he said there's a need to take sound and effective steps to curb gun violence. Does he feel that this incident calls for a review of gun safety laws?
MR. CARNEY: Ken, I would say that, as you know, the President believes that we need to take common-sense measures that protect Second Amendment rights of Americans, while ensuring that those who should not have guns under existing law do not get them. And there has been progress in that regard in terms of improving the volume and quality of information in background checks. But I have nothing new -- nothing additional on that for you. This is obviously a very recent event.
Q Jen, will the President make any campaign-related remarks today, or is this just the statement on Colorado?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said, obviously, the events of last night have changed the nature of his remarks today. We’re finalizing them on the plane, so I don't want to characterize them in advance. But it’s a short wait until he speaks when we get to the ground.
Q Are there any other changes to the program just in terms of how he’s usually introduced and the fanfare around that?
MS. PSAKI: That's a good question. He will be -- we are cutting down the program, so he will be the only speaker at the event.
Q Also after the Gabby Giffords -- in the wake of Gabby Giffords, the President gave a speech not only talking about gun safety but also talking about civility in our culture. And there’s been some sense that since then, maybe Washington -- and I think the President has addressed this -- has not always remained civil and that the dialogue can get hostile. I'm wondering if today there may be a change of tone and respect? We’re not Pollyannas that this would change the campaign, but do you think that there’s any sense from the White House that there does need to be any kind of toning down of some of the back-and-forth, not just today but going forward?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would echo what Jen said that the President will address Aurora at this event. He’s obviously pulling down the ensuing event. I think you should wait to hear what the President has to say when he speaks.
I would also -- I attempted earlier to give -- to describe to you what the President told me his reaction was, and I had a little trouble with it. He talked -- he mentioned to me how heavy his heart is and the pain he understands parents and loved ones must be suffering. And it’s -- children across America go to the movies, as do adults, and it’s just a terrible tragedy. And he feels that deeply.
Q Can I ask one on a different topic, on Bulgaria and the investigations? There are some reports that the U.S. does believe that Hezbollah was behind the attack. Can you confirm that? Do you have any updates on that?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that the President, as I walked back here, after he had made the calls that I told you about and got the briefings that I told you about, was on the phone with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. I don't have a readout of that call at this point, but he obviously was getting updated on the situation there and the investigation, thanking the Bulgarian Prime Minister for the cooperation, and offering assistance of the United States in the investigation.
As for those reports, I can tell you that we don't have any confirmation yet. We are working to assess the facts and, with our partners, to discover who was responsible. It is certainly the case that Hezbollah and Iran have been bad actors, as a general matter. But we're not, at this point, in a position to make a statement about responsibility.
Q -- a readout of that call?
MR. CARNEY: I'm sure we will have a readout. I wouldn't expect significant detail in terms of the course of the investigation.
Okay? Thank you.
9:57 A.M. EDT