Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Jay Carney en route Austin, TX, 4/10/2014
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Austin, Texas
10:14 A.M. CDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us aboard Air Force One as we make our way from Houston to Austin. The President is looking forward to participating in celebration today at the LBJ Museum and Library. He’ll deliver remarks on this very significant anniversary.
With that, I’ll take your questions.
Q Vladimir Putin has told European leaders the dispute over Ukraine’s gas debt to Russia could affect supplies of Russian gas to Europe. Is this something you’re aware of, concerned about?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I haven’t seen that specific report. Obviously, the issue of energy security in Europe is one that we’re always paying close attention to. We’ve made clear in the past that it’s wholly inappropriate to use energy exports in order to achieve diplomatic or geopolitical objectives, and we’ve made that view clear. But we’re in constant conversation with our European partners on matters like this. But again, that’s just a broad statement. I haven’t seen that latest report.
Q Jay, the Congress is poised this afternoon to pass a bill banning the envoy that Iran has chosen for the United Nations. I know you’ve said that that selection is not viable, but will President Obama sign that piece of legislation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you noted, Josh, the House has not acted as of yet, so I’m going to withhold any statement about --
Q But you know it’s in the bill, and it’s obviously going to pass.
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is that we’ve made clear and have communicated to the Iranians that the selection they’ve put forward is not viable, and we’re continuing to make that understood. In terms of legislation, I just don’t have a view on it in terms of the President at this time.
Q Jay, what kind of impact or consequence does the legislation have in connection with the nuclear talks on Iran?
MR. CARNEY: None that we have seen. That’s a kind of fill-in-the-blank question when it comes to Iran with the issues that we have with them, that we continue to have serious disagreements with Iran over. And this matter is but one. The talks continue; they continue to be workmanlike and productive. And we’ve seen no impact on those discussions from some of these other issues.
Q Eleven Democratic senators are calling on the President to outline an explicit timeline for approving the Keystone pipeline. Is he going to do that?
MR. CARNEY: Our position on that process hasn’t changed, which is that it needs to run its appropriate course without interference from the White House or Congress. It was because of actions taken by Republicans in Congress that one delay was caused in the process already. So that review continues at the State Department where it’s housed in accordance with past practice of previous administrations of both parties. And when there’s a decision to be announced, it will be announced.
Q Jay, voting rights is an issue that’s likely to be on the table tomorrow when the President is in New York and perhaps today as well. There’s a bipartisan bill from Senators Leahy and Sensenbrenner that would fix some of the issues created by the Supreme Court ruling that undermine parts of the Voting Rights Act. Is that legislation that the President could support?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that effort is underway and we support the fact that there’s a bipartisan effort to address the need created by the Supreme Court’s decision. But I haven’t seen legislation, so I don’t have a specific comment on that. But I think as I’ve said in the past and we have said in the past, it is certainly heartening that not just Democrats but Republicans as well understand the need to fix some of the problems created by the Supreme Court decision.
Q Has the President seen the intelligence community’s IG report on the Boston bombing? And does the White House still believe that Russia has been a constructive partner on law enforcement issues?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t believe the President has seen it, and in terms of the role the FBI had and the information that they received from the Russians, I would refer you to the FBI for specifics.
The U.S. and Russia have a shared interest in preventing terrorist attacks and a history of close cooperation. Following the attack in Boston, we received cooperation from the Russian government in the investigation. As we’ve explained, based on limited information provided by the Russian government, the FBI conducted a thorough investigation of one of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in 2011 and did not find any terrorism activity.
As part of that investigation, the FBI checked U.S. government databases and other information to look for things as derogatory, such as -- such things as derogatory telephone communication; possible use of online sites associated with the promotion of radical activity; associations with other persons of interest; travel history and plans in education history. The FBI also interviewed Tamerlan Tsarnaev and family members. The FBI did not find any terrorism activity, domestic or foreign.
But for more specifics on that, I would refer you to the FBI. Obviously, the information that we were provided by the Russians led to that examination that I just described to you, which did not produce any indication of terrorism activity.
Q Any interaction with any other President today? And how long is this speech going to take?
MR. CARNEY: (Laughter.) You in a rush to get home, Steve?
Q Maybe I should have worded that a little differently. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: That was Steve Holland, ladies and gentlemen. I’m not aware of any interaction that the President will have with a former President. My understanding is that those who are participating in the event are doing so at different times, not when we’re going to be there. But if that changes I’ll let you know. On the speech itself, it will be -- the length will be just right.
Q Jay, last night the President criticized Republicans and others in terms of the voting rights issue. But other than criticizing Republicans, is the President satisfied that he’s done enough in his five years in office to expand civil rights? What does he feel like has been his legacy on civil rights at this point?
MR. CARNEY: Well, that’s an interesting question. I think that the President will I think address the broader subject today, and the legacy of Lyndon Baines Johnson and of those people, famous and unknown, who helped make the Civil Rights Act a reality, and helped make some of the other landmark achievements in the Johnson administration on civil rights a reality.
Q But does he feel like he’s done enough as President?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President is going to let others judge his record.
Q Well, some people say that he’s been more willing to discuss race in the second term, more willing to take on issues that have been of concern to the African American community in his second term. Do you agree with that?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure I would agree with that. I think that the President has obviously addressed issues that affect all Americans, including minorities -- African Americans, Latinos and others. When he talks about the challenge posed by a lack of mobility economically, obviously that speaks to people who are struggling to get into the middle class, and that can be something identified as an issue that speaks to minorities but it speaks to all Americans. But that’s something he’s been talking a lot about in his second term.
On sort of other civil rights issues, I think it’s fair to say that there has been enormous progress made under this administration when it comes to LGBT rights -- historic progress. And that’s something the President wants to continue and wants to see continue. He also believes that our work is not done when it comes to ensuring that our laws are enforced, when it comes to equality for women.
And as the President noted last night, it is astounding, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, that not a single Republican in the Senate thought it was worth their time or worth their support to vote for a bill that would simply give women more tools to ensure that they’re paid fairly. And the data is clear on why this is necessary, but for some reason Republicans don’t seem to agree on this issue, which is a little shocking.
Q So he’s going to be in Austin celebrating civil rights victories of 50 years ago. Is there something substantive that he’ll be proposing? I mean, is that what you’re getting at? Is he going to emphasize paycheck fairness as the next civil rights movement?
MR. CARNEY: No, I’m simply noting that as an issue that is in the arena of civil rights, the Paycheck Fairness Act is something that Congress could have joined the President in moving forward, and they chose not to -- Republicans chose not to, which is confounding --
Q Well, I guess what I’m asking is will he be --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to preview the speech. I would note that -- beyond saying that he’s going to talk about all those Americans both famous and not who contributed to making the Civil Rights Act a reality. He’s going to talk about President Johnson’s historic achievement and his legacy. And he will talk about the need to safeguard that progress to continue to move this country forward, as LBJ did.
Q Any readout of his -- interaction with President Bush yesterday?
MR. CARNEY: I think the reporting I saw on it captured the meeting -- the brief meeting very well. I don’t have anything more to add to that. I think it’s something the President -- I know the President and First Lady greatly appreciated the fact that President George H.W. Bush greeted them on the tarmac. And the President has enormous regard and respect for President Bush.
Q Any lawmakers or other notables that are on this flight with us today?
MR. CARNEY: Let me get you -- we do have some. I’ll have to get you a list.
Q Will he be meeting with the Johnsons’ daughters?
MR. CARNEY: I think that he will -- upon arrival, he and the First Lady will spend some time -- just a minute, let me see if I can get this page here -- with members of President Johnson’s family, as well as the director of the LBJ Presidential Library, Mark Updegrove, and Congressman Lewis, John Lewis.
Q Will he be doing with them -- he’s taking a tour, right?
MR. CARNEY: I think they’ll have a review of some of the exhibits.
Q Is the pool going along?
MR. CARNEY: Is the pool going? My esteemed colleague says yes. Hannah Hankins coming to my rescue.
MR. CARNEY: Anybody else? All right -- oh, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee.
10:28 A.M. CDT