Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, 2/12/15
Aboard Air Force One
En Route California
3:52 P.M. EST
MR. SCHULTZ: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome aboard Air Force One. Before we begin, I'm sure you all saw some significant news out of Philadelphia today. In anticipation of your questions on that, I'm happy to give you the President’s reaction. In fact, he is thrilled that the city of Philadelphia and the mayor today enacted a bill that would guarantee working families at least five paid sick days off per year.
According to the bill, approximately 200,000 Philadelphia families who currently lack access to paid leave now stand to gain from today’s action. As you know, about 27 days ago -- I did the math this morning -- the President called for an expansion of paid sick leave as part of his State of the Union address. Congress hasn’t yet moved on this. But we appreciate the city of Philadelphia doing just that. We call on more cities and localities to do it. We also reiterate our call for Congress to move as well.
And with that, I'm happy to take your questions.
Q You said you were thrilled. I thought you were talking about the DNC convention. Did the President have any thrill reaction to that as well?
MR. SCHULTZ: We saw that announcement as well, Margaret, and we're very pleased with that announcement as well.
Q I have a question on Ukraine. I was wondering if the cease-fire deal there in any way reduces the pressure on the President in terms of having him make a decision about sending more lethal weapons over to Ukraine.
MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Darlene. Our position on that hasn’t changed, which is that we are constantly evaluating our response to this crisis. The President heretofore has been clear that the reason we haven't sent over the types of aid you're talking about is that principally we believe this should be resolved diplomatically. And that is our preference; that is our priority. And so we haven't made any determinations to change the sorts of equipment we're going to be sending.
Q -- that discussion about sanctions, Eric, increasing sanctions on Russia?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, I think I have no new announcements to make at this time. We would only consider rolling back sanctions if Russia lives up to not only the agreement that was announced a few hours ago, but also the agreement that was agreed upon in Minsk a few months ago now. Clearly, they have not lived up to that agreement in a variety of ways, so I don't have anything new on that until they do that.
Q Is the President optimistic that this agreement will hold?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think we welcome the news. We're certainly gratified by the hard work of our European partners, including Chancellor Merkel and President Hollande. We consider it a potential significant step in the right direction, provided that all parties abide by it.
Q Are you concerned, is the President concerned that by putting another cease-fire in place now, after the pro-Russian forces have gained so much territory, that you are essentially enshrining the territorial gains that they have made?
MR. SCHULTZ: David, I think that we welcome the agreement that was announced a few hours ago. We're still studying the details of what’s exactly in the agreement. We believe that it is a potentially significant step in the right direction. But our bottom line on this is that actions are going to matter a whole lot more than words. And so we'll need Russia and all sides to live up to what they agreed upon.
Q Is your bottom line, though, that you have to go back to where things were at the time of the Minsk agreement several months ago when obviously the pro-Russian forces had much less territory?
MR. SCHULTZ: We absolutely believe that Russia should live up to the agreements from the previous Minsk agreement, from that time.
Q On a separate subject, do you have any further information or details on the Keystone bill that's has been voted on in Congress, and when the President might plan to veto it?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have an update on that. As you know, the approval process for this pipeline is one that predates this administration, and is hubbed at the State Department. We're going to let that process unfold. The President has announced that he would oppose and veto any legislative maneuvering to circumvent that process. So he will indeed be vetoing it. But again, I don't even think they’ve sent the bill over or even announced when the bill would come over.
Q -- he could have this while he’s in Palm Springs, I think. Is that not true?
Q The Republicans have said they won't send it over until after their recess next week. Yes, he’s going to veto it. Do you have a sense of whether he would do that in some sort of public, “I'm vetoing this, I told you again and again I'm going to veto”? Or would he do it behind closed doors, in private or something?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have any rollout plans to announce for that step that, again, doesn’t seem like it's going to be today.
Q -- on the West Coast. Is he planning to wading in in any way to the court’s dispute?
MR. SCHULTZ: As you know, our focus on this trip is on the first-ever cybersecurity summit, and consumer protection. I would not anticipate the President wading in on that. I do think that our view is this is a conflict that should be resolved at the negotiating table. There’s a federal mediator right now mediating between both sides, and we want this resolved at the negotiating table and we want it resolved quickly.
Q -- either side ask that the President get involved in some way? Is that something under some circumstance he might consider if this is not resolved quickly?
MR. SCHULTZ: Our view is this should be resolved at the negotiating table expeditiously.
Q I was wondering, when it comes to the cyber summit itself, a number of the CEOs -- Tim Cook, notwithstanding -- have decided not to attend personally, and to send other high-level people from their team instead. And I'm just wondering, does the White House see this as a snub, or does the White House see this purely as a scheduling issue? And do you think they’re trying to make a statement about the NSA and administration policies, or does it have nothing to do with that, and no hard feelings between everybody?
MR. SCHULTZ: Margaret, I think we are very pleased at the participation across the board for the first annual -- well, not annual yet -- for the first-ever White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection. I think if you look at who will be joining us over the next day or so, you’ll be looking at industry leaders in the tech industry, in the privacy advocacy community, in academia and government, and business leaders from across the board. So we are gratified and we welcome their participation.
I know that some companies are sending different representatives, but we are pleased at their participation.
Q Do you think that the decision of those who have decided not to come is to make a statement? Or do you not see it as that, just sort of coincidence?
MR. SCHULTZ: You’ll have to check with certain companies if they’re not participating. But as I understand it, I think -- and I know we’re in the midst of sort of releasing the details, but not only the engagement that we've gotten from tech and business leaders across the board we're proud of, but also some of the commitments that are going to be announced over the next day or so are pretty significant.
Q Can you talk more broadly through the weekend, besides this cyber summit? We know he'll be attending a fundraiser and we know he'll be in Palm Springs. But can you talk to us about will he see any of the players in the California potential Senate race in that Democratic field? Or will he make an effort to not visit with any of them so that he doesn’t send a mixed signal? How much politics will be on this trip?
MR. SCHULTZ: As I suggested, Margaret, our focus and the President’s cause for this trip is the cybersecurity summit. I would not anticipate a very robust public schedule beyond tomorrow, beyond Friday. But we'll let you know if that changes.
Q On the cyber end, the President gave a speech on NSA reform a year ago, and you turned out an update about a week ago. The essence of the update was that not very many of the reforms that he discussed have yet been implemented, including the movement of bulk collection of calls. Is the President expected to address the slowness in implementing that plan during the course of the summit?
MR. SCHULTZ: David, I'm not sure I buy the premise of your question. This is something that, as you point out, was very important to the President. He made a speech about it a little bit over a year ago, announced some pretty significant reforms. The report that was issued I think a week ago now did describe and outline some pretty significant progress we've made on this.
But, as you point out, we're not done. And I think that long past this issue fading from the headlines, this is work that a lot of our intelligence officials, the professionals across the interagency are working day in and day out on to make sure that we better strike the balance between civil liberties, privacy, and the security interests of the United States.
Q The biggest change the President announced in the speech was moving -- a year ago -- was moving the bulk collection to the private sector. Nobody has seemed to be able to give an estimate of when that would happen.
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have a status update on that for you. I would say that our focus for this trip, on this summit, is going to be more on cybersecurity and consumer protection, specifically bringing together industry, tech companies, consumer and privacy advocates, members of law enforcement, educators and students to really spur collaboration and adopt best practices.
We're also, of course, going to reiterate our call on Congress to pass legislation, which we announced a while ago, which we have been frustrated with on their lack of progress. This isn't and shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Democrats use the Internet; Republicans use the Internet. I have a feeling both Democrats and Republicans do their share of online shopping. And we believe this shouldn’t be an issue that's bogged down on partisan politics. So we urge Congress to move. There’s a lot of pending legislation up there, a lot of pieces of legislation that could do a lot of good on this front. So we urge them to move quickly on that.
Q Mayor Emanuel in Chicago has a primary on the 24th. Does the President have any plans to campaign for him?
MR. SCHULTZ: Katie, as you know, we are looking forward to our trip to Chicago next week. I don't have any scheduling updates for you in terms of the details of what’s going to be on that trip.
Q I wanted to follow up on a Daily Beast article. Did the White House wait a month to stage a rescue after British intelligence officials passed along information about the American hostages’ location last summer?
MR. SCHULTZ: No. I believe your colleague asked my colleague yesterday if there was any sort of delay, and there was not. You can be assured that as soon as the President was comfortable with the intelligence provided and the plan from our military leaders, there was no delay and the President ordered the mission.
Q What about the reports there was a second failed U.S. rescue attempt? Did something go wrong with the rescue attempt while the Jordanian airstrikes were going on?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven't seen anything on that.
Q What is the back story on the -- there’s a video with Obama that Buzzfeed put out today on Facebook. Can you fill us in on how that came about? Was that part of the interview he did with Buzzfeed, or is it something you guys -- you all wanted him to do?
MR. SCHULTZ: Darlene, that was conducted after the interview earlier this week. I can tell you we're about up to about -- before takeoff -- about 5.7 million views online since the launch of it at noon, a few hours ago. So we're pleased at the response it's getting. We've noticed significant ripple effects across social media, so we're pleased.
The enrollment deadline for the Affordable Care Act ends on the 15th. In the past, we’ve had a lot of success finding audiences in these sorts of channels to get them to sign up and visit the website. So we believe this won’t be any different.
Q Was the video the White House’s idea, though? Or whose idea was it?
MR. SCHULTZ: I’m not sure, actually.
Q There’s some legislation on the Hill limiting the President’s ability to transfer detainees. Does the White House have a position on that?
MR. SCHULTZ: Joy, thank you for the question. As you know, our position is that the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay the facility there, weakens our national security, and must be closed. We believe this bill puts more constraints on a process that should be actually working faster. And so we oppose this legislation, and the President would veto it.
Q So this will be -- President Obama will be back on the fundraising circuit. This is his first fundraiser for the 2016 cycle, tomorrow?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes.
Q Is he looking forward to getting back on the fundraising trail?
MR. SCHULTZ: I have not spoken to the President about that. Yes. (Laughter.)
Q He’s not raising money for himself anymore. How does he look at his role going ahead into the final couple years of his presidency?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think as he’s talked about, he has run his final campaign. Nobody is more pleased about that than the First Lady. And his focus, as he’s talked about, is we are just kicking off our fourth quarter of the presidency. As he’s said many times, we have a lot of important work to be done, much of which is going to happen tomorrow in terms of the priority of cybersecurity. And so we’re looking forward to that.
Q -- the fundraiser will be? There were some reports that they were having trouble selling tickets.
MR. SCHULTZ: I have no idea, Katie, but would refer you to the DNC for that information.
Q Where is the President staying when he’s in Palm Springs?
MR. SCHULTZ: At a private residence.
MR. SCHULTZ: We’ll see if we can get you that information.
Q Do you think there’s any chance the President would be having any meetings this weekend about the presidential library in any way? Talking about fundraising, or planning, or design, perhaps?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven’t seen that on the President’s schedule.
Q Is there anything else about the weekend that you can or cannot walk us through in terms of who he’ll be hanging out with, what he’ll be doing in his free time? This is -- I think the Obamas do a trip like they -- Mrs. Obama and the girls usually use President’s Weekend for separate vacation purposes, but I mean, can you sort of talk us through what he’s looking forward to doing this weekend?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think you have seen the pretty busy, robust schedule for tomorrow. Beyond that, I don’t have a -- again, I would not -- for your planning, Margaret, I would not anticipate a robust public schedule for the duration, the remainder of the holiday weekend.
Q What about the private schedule?
Q Can we assume golf will be --
MR. SCHULTZ: Jeff, the President has been known to enjoy golf in this area of the country before. I would not be surprised if he does so again this weekend.
Q Thank you.
MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you, guys.
4:10 P.M. EST