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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 3/3/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

2:14 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  You all just had an opportunity to hear from the President about his reaction to the speech from Prime Minister Netanyahu this afternoon.  And I’m here to take your questions on that or any other topics that are on your mind today.

Nedra, would you like to get us started?

Q    I would, Josh.  Thanks.  Did anyone here at the White House authorize or raise any objections to Secretary Clinton using her personal email account while at the State Department?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, what I can tell you is that very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees of the Obama administration should use their official email accounts when they’re conducting official government business.  However, when there are situations where personal email accounts are used, it is important for those records to be preserved consistent with the Federal Records Act. 

In fact, the President signed into law a bill at the end of last year clarifying the guidelines for how those personal emails can be properly stored and maintained.  This is part of why the State Department has asked all of the previous Secretaries of State who have used any email as they were conducting official U.S. business to send their emails to the State Department so they could be properly preserved and maintained. 

Secretary Clinton’s team, in response to that request, reviewed her emails and complied with that request by sending all of the emails on her personal account that pertained to her official responsibilities as Secretary of State.  They did that even though many of the records were already maintained on the State’s system because those records were emails between the Secretary of State and State Department employees using their official government email address.

Q    So are you saying that her use of her personal email, solely, was appropriate, or was it in violation of this policy?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what you should do is that you should check with the State Department who is responsible for administering this policy.  But the policy, as a general matter, allows individuals to use their personal email address as long as those emails are maintained and sent to the State Department -- which, if you ask Secretary Clinton’s team, that’s what they completed in the last month or two.

Q    And given that’s she not the first person to use personal emails, does there need to be some sort of system for archiving personal emails of high-ranking government officials like this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that is part of this law that I referred to that the President signed into law at the end of last year -- that is does establish clear guidelines for how individuals, if they are using their personal email to conduct official business, can ensure that those records are properly maintained.

Now, the official guidance that we offer to administration employees -- and it’s certainly the guidance that I have followed here personally when I’ve been at the White House -- is that I use my official government email address when I’m conducting official government business.  It saves me the additional step of having to take a personal email and forward it to my government email so that it can be properly maintained.

Now, it’s not incredibly uncommon for one of you, or one of your colleagues, to send an email to my personal address.  A few of you have it.  But when I do that, I will answer the emails -- which I try to be pretty good about doing -- but then I will take that response and forward the email to my official account so that the record of that email exchange can be properly preserved.

Q   Can you respond to the announcement from the House that they will vote on a Homeland Security funding bill without restrictions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, as you heard me say yesterday, the White House has been urging the Congress for months now to do the right thing, and that is pass a full-year funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that does not include any politically motivated riders.  And the benefit of that is, is that it will allow the Department of Homeland Security to plan and take the necessary steps to protect the American people.  And at the end of last year, Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill got together and worked to hammer out an agreement about the appropriate funding levels for that agency.

That agreement was reached at the end of last year.  But for several months now, congressional Republicans have prevented votes on that compromise because they were trying to figure out a way that they could capitalize on a political opportunity.  The fact is, trying to politicize something as fundamental to our national security as funding for the Department of Homeland Security is completely inappropriate.  And we are pleased that congressional leaders in the House have apparently relented, they’ve abandoned the search for political advantage, and are instead just trying to move forward to do the right thing, which is to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security.


Q    When Secretary Clinton was using her private email address to do her work as Secretary, was the White House Counsel’s Office aware of that?  And did it sanction that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the responsibility for ensuring that agency records are properly preserved and maintained is the responsibility of agency officials in coordination with the National Archives and Records Administration.  This is a fairly bureaucratic function, but yet an important one.  These records need to be maintained for a variety of reasons.  One is that it’s not hard to imagine that historians in the future will want to review these records to conduct their academic analysis about things that occurred in the administration.  The records also need to be preserved and maintained so that legitimate requests, either from private citizens or from Congress, to review that information can be fulfilled.

So it’s the responsibility of the agencies to maintain their own records management plan, if you will, but they certainly do that in close coordination with the experts at NARA, at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Q   So White House officials that she may have been emailing with, they didn’t raise this at any point in time as you might want to use your official government -- or why aren’t you using your officials account?  Was it just okay with everybody?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as I pointed out, Roberta, in response to Nedra’s question, it is the responsibility of agencies to preserve those records, even when those records exist on a personal email account.  That is why, in order to make it easier for everybody and to avoid circumstances where an individual may forget to forward an email, we encourage people to use their official government email account when they’re conducting official government business.  However, when a personal email account is involved, the law suggests -- or the law mandates, in fact, that that record be properly preserved, and that can be done by forwarding it to an official government email where it can be preserved on the system.

Again, that’s what Secretary Clinton’s team did, was they reviewed her personal emails to capture all of those that pertained to the conduct of official U.S. business and sent them to the State Department so they could be properly maintained.  And, in fact, I understand that hundreds of those records have actually already been provided to Congress in response to a legitimate congressional oversight request.

So that, I think, reflects a commitment on the part of the State Department to not just following the Federal Records Act, but also coordinating and complying with legitimate requests from congressional oversight committees. 

Q    Are there security concerns, though, with a high-ranking official like the Secretary of State using a personal email address for official business?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, for the specific protocols that are in place at the State Department, you should check with the experts at the State Department.  These are their rules for them to manage.  The President, what he insists that all the agencies do is live up to the obligations that they have under the Federal Records Act.


Q    Well, how do you feel about those rules?  Wouldn’t that rule then allow a big space for emails to not be preserved if the use of a personal email on a regular basis is even allowed and thought to be okay long term?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, Michelle, the guidance that we have certainly given to everybody who works here at the White House -- and I think this is consistent with the guidance that federal employees at agencies across the government have received -- is that they should use their official email account when they’re conducting official government business. 

On those instances in which official business is conducted on personal email accounts, it's important for those records, those personal emails, to be forwarded to the agency so that they can be properly maintained.  In most cases, at least here at the White House, it's as simple as just forwarding it to your official government account so that those emails can be properly maintained and preserved.

Q    But that’s a personal responsibility.  And do you think that the rules need to be tightened up since it seems to leave a big gap there in who’s going to forward that email and who’s going to make sure that that email is forwarded?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think the law is pretty clear about what’s necessary to comply, which is that it's important to ensure that those emails that may exist on one’s personal email account are properly maintained.  And again, that is why we saw the State Department take the step of asking all of the former Secretaries of State who have used email as they’ve done their work to review their personal email in search of records that relate to the conduct of official U.S. business. 

And Secretary Clinton’s team complied with that request by reviewing her personal email, pulling together all of the ones that were related to her official work as a Secretary of State, and forward it to the State Department so that they could preserve and maintain those records and, in fact, use them to respond to legitimate requests from Congress.

Q    Okay.  And the speech we just heard from Prime Minister Netanyahu, his whole premise of hating this potential deal was that Iran is such a threat, it can’t be trusted really under any means.  Do you think that he overstated that threat on the basis that a deal is being worked out?  And do you think that he did betray the trust between allies, as you put it, because he discussed some key points of that potential deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Michelle, let me take the first part first, which is I think Susan Rice, the National Security Advisor, had a rather cogent way of summarizing our approach to this deal:  Distrust and verify.  As she laid out, and even as the President relayed in his comments in the Oval Office, there are a variety of reasons to not trust the Iranians.  There are numerous examples of the Iranians not being honest with the international community about their nuclear program.  There are a variety of examples of that.  One, and in some ways, the best example of that is the nuclear facility at Fordow that the United States and our allies revealed early on in the President’s tenure in office, back in 2009.

So that is why, as the President mentioned in the Oval Office, any sort of deal that the United States signs on to will include historically significant verification measures.  We're talking about detailed verification measures that would include, of course, as you would expect, the routine inspection of nuclear facilities in Iran, but it would also expand to things like regular inspections of uranium mines that exist in Iran, regular inspection of manufacturing facilities that are related to nuclear equipment that are critical to the functioning of their nuclear program.  We're talking about an in-depth, rigorous inspections regime that can verify for the international community that Iran is living up to their end of the deal.

Now, the second part of your question was related to?

Q    This idea that he was talking about, these points of a potential deal.   Should he not have done that?  Was that a betrayal of trust?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, the Israeli Prime Minister is allowed to make the decisions, as I referred to yesterday -- is allowed to make the decisions about what he’s going to say based on his own assessment about the best interests of Israeli national security.  That's his responsibility as the politically democratically elected leader of Israel.

But the President has made clear that there are other concerns in mind, principally ensuring that the relationship between the United States and Israel isn't subjected to the turbulence of partisan politics.  And that's why the President has chosen a somewhat different approach.  It's why the President is not meeting with the Prime Minister on this visit to the United States.  But it does not reflect any change in this administration’s or this country’s commitment to Israel’s national security.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  Going back to the emails.  The President is a noted emailer-in-chief.  Has he ever emailed with former Secretary of State Clinton?  Did they email when she was in office?

MR. EARNEST:  Zeke, you won't be surprised to hear that I'm not going to talk in a lot of detail about emails that are sent to or from the President of the United States.  But I will tell you as a general matter, two things.  The first is that the President’s emails are subject to the Presidential Records Act, which does have -- which is a little bit different than the Federal Records Act.  Hopefully, you guys aren't going to quiz me on that.  But they are subjected to the Presidential Records Act that does require those records to be preserved and maintained.  They have obvious scholarly value in the future. 

The second point that I'll make about that is that if Secretary Clinton did email the President of the United States, that under that protocol, those records would have been preserved.  And, again, I think that sort of highlights the situation that Secretary Clinton’s team encountered, which is that a large number of the records that they reviewed in response to the State Department request were records that already existed on the State Department’s system because they were emails between her and State Department employees with email addresses.

Q    Well, when somebody in the White House, in the West Wing, had an email to send to the Secretary of State, did they just use her private email account?  She didn’t have a State Department email account.  How did they get in contact with her?  Did that never raise a flag inside the West Wing?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Zeke, what I’ll tell you is that during her four years as Secretary of State, she and I did not trade emails, so I do not know what her email address is.  But I can tell you that if there were emails between Secretary Clinton and White House officials, and I’m pretty confident that there were some emails, those emails weren’t just protected by -- or maintained by the White House email system; those emails were reviewed by Secretary Clinton’s team, and they were sent to the State Department so they could properly maintained on their system as well.  And, again, that is consistent with the requirements of the Federal Records Act.

Q    The domain that the Secretary used apparently to send these emails was registered just a week before the President took office.  The same day her confirmation hearings in the Senate began, it seemed that this was setup for the express purpose of being the vehicle for her to use email while she was serving as Secretary of State.  For the President who has openly said multiple times, most-transparent administration in history, was this a conversation that they had before she took office?  Was this something that anyone in this White House ever flagged for her?  And is this consistent with the President’s promise to make this a transparent administration?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Zeke, I’m not aware of all the mechanics that went into setting up the email system that you have just described.  I would encourage you to check with Secretary Clinton’s team or somebody over at the State Department.  But, again, what the President has insisted on from the beginning of his administration, as you alluded to, is a commitment to, among other things, making sure that emailed communication, to the extent that they are official government records, are properly preserved and maintained, both so that in the future they can be reviewed by historians, but also so that they can be used when necessary to respond to legitimate requests from Congress or the public to review those records.

Q    And just one last one.  You said that the Secretary’s staff reviewed and turned over 55,000 pages of emails.  That’s not 55,000 emails.  And why should the American people take her word or her staff’s word for it?  Why is there no independent review?  By going through this process, she set it up that it’s on her word or on her staff’s word that these are the only emails pertaining to her official business at the State Department.  Why should anybody take that at face value?  Why shouldn’t there be some system in place to have an independent arbiter of that information?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Zeke, in terms of the number -- the 55,000 number is something I’ve seen reported.  I haven’t verified that number, so I’ve been careful to avoid using it.  I don’t know if that refers to pages or emails or what.  I’m not disputing the number; I’m just saying I don’t know what the number is.  I know that there were a large number of records that numbered in the thousands that were turned over by Secretary Clinton’s team at the request of the State Department.  Again, this was a request the State Department had made to previous Secretaries of State, all previous Secretaries of State in both parties. 

And, again, in the same way that Secretary Clinton’s team reviewed her personal email to make sure that they were forwarding on to the State Department emails that relate to her conduct of official U.S. business, the same is true of those Secretaries of State who served in a Republican administration. 

And, ultimately, that is what the law requires -- is that if an individual used a personal email account for official U.S. business, that that information, that record should be sent and maintained in the system that’s been setup by that specific agency.  And that is why, frankly, we encourage people -- a lot of people don’t have a team like Secretary Clinton does -- that’s why we encourage them to not rely on remembering to forward a personal email to your government system, but to actually just use the official government system that’s set up so you can ensure that those records are properly maintained and preserved.


Q    There have been a lot of descriptions today of what Secretary Clinton may or may not have done -- violated the law, skirted the law, complied.  Where do you come down?

MR. EARNEST:  I come down wherever the State Department attorney comes down.  Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of the State Department to ensure compliance with these rules.

Q    This is the President’s administration, though.

MR. EARNEST:  Of course it is.  And that’s why we’ve been very clear about what sort of guidance these agencies should be following.  But each of them, I think understandably, implements these guidelines in their own way that reflect the unique challenges and responsibilities of that agency’s employees.  So it’s the responsibility at the agency level for compliance to be determined.  They do that in coordination with the National Archives and Records Administration. 

But, ultimately, it’s their policy to implement and their policy to evaluate whether or not or how individuals should comply with those guidelines.  And, again, this is what prompted the request from the State Department to previously-serving Secretaries of State to forward onto them records that may have been kept in their personal email account.

Q    I’m not trying to be cute here, but lots of people work for this administration, this is an ongoing topic of conversation, I know there’s a new law, but can you venture a conclusion or will you offer a conclusion as to whether or not the Secretary broke the law, skirted the law, or complied with the law, based on what we know so far?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, Major, the guidelines that are laid out under the Federal Records Act require that records that are maintained -- that pertain to official government business, that do reside in one’s personal email account, should be turned over to agency officials so that those records can be properly maintained and preserved.

Q    And can you make a judgment as to whether or not you believe the Secretary has complied with that guidance?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I know that Secretary Clinton’s team has indicated that they complied with that guidance.  I know that the Secretary of -- or the Department of State has made the request and has received what Secretary Clinton’s team put together.  But, ultimately, it’s the responsibility of those two parties to assess how and whether this is within the guidelines of what is required. 

But, again, what Secretary Clinton’s team has said is that they reviewed the emails, and they took the emails that were related to her official work as the Secretary of State and sent them to the State Department.

Q    For the public’s benefit and in the name of transparency, will you call on the State Department to release these emails publicly?  The non-classified ones?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Major, I know that there are a number of these emails that have already -- well, first of all, I don’t know that any of them are classified.  But I know that a number of these emails have already been produced to Congress as it relates to congressional -- legitimate congressional oversight request.

I don’t know exactly what the rules are under the Freedom of Information Act for the State Department.  But certainly if you’re interested in seeing those emails, that would be the avenue that I would recommend.

Q    Back to Netanyahu’s speech.  Did the Prime Minister say anything in his characterization of what Iran’s behavior has been, or is likely to be, that the administration disagrees with?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it depends.  What Prime Minister Netanyahu did detail at some length are the reasons that the international community does distrust promises that are made by Iran’s leaders.  There is no doubt that Iran has done things, like routinely supported and continues to support terrorism around the globe, most of it in the region, but also around the globe.

There is no arguing, as the President pointed out, with the fact that Iran has menaced our closest ally in the region, repeatedly, including using some vile anti-Semitic language.  There’s also no question, and I don’t think that Prime Minister Netanyahu raised this, but there are also some American citizens who are currently being unjustly held in Iran. 

So the list of concerns that we have with Iran is lengthy, and several of the items at the top of that list are significant.  But what we know is that it is important for Iran not to obtain a nuclear weapon, because obtaining a nuclear weapon would only strengthen their hand as they try to do the other bad things that they do.  That if Iran has a nuclear weapon and they’re supporting terrorism, it makes their support for terror groups even more dangerous.  If Iran has a nuclear weapon and they are menacing Israel, that makes those threats even more dangerous.

And the fact is, if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon and they unjustly detain American citizens in their country, it makes it harder to get those citizens back.  So that is why the President has made as his priority resolving the broader international community’s concerns with their nuclear program. 

And the strategy that the President has laid out is one that we can count on to best resolve our concerns with their program.  If we can put in place very tough monitoring requirements and extend the breakout time to one year, that’s the best way, that’s the best possible way to resolve the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program. 

The alternative that was advocated by Prime Minister Netanyahu and others falls far short of that.  Military action we know would fall far short of that.  Additional sanctions that would cause our international coalition to crumble would fall far short of that. 

The strategy that the President has laid out is the one that has the best likelihood of success and is the one that can best resolve the concerns of the international community.  The only X factor is whether Iran is going to sign on to an agreement that does all of those things. 

And that is why all along we have continued to place the likelihood of success of this particular path at 50/50.  But because of the potential benefits that lie at the end of this path, that’s why the President believes it's one that’s worth pursuing.

Q    As you may be aware, the Prime Minister said, the alternative isn’t military action or doesn’t necessarily need to be; it's a better deal.  Meaning, force Iran to dismantle its underlying nuclear technology so it can’t have this capability and can’t have a breakout potential.  Is the Prime Minister describing a world that he imagines but that doesn’t actually exist?

MR. EARNEST:  It certainly is not a plausible outcome in the minds of the United States.  And what is a plausible outcome is an outcome that has Iran voluntarily rolling back key aspects of their program, that has Iran agreeing to a set of monitoring restrictions that would allow international experts routine and frequent access to their nuclear facilities so that they can confirm for themselves that Iran is living up to their end of the agreement. 

That is the best way for us to resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.

Q    Last question.  On the DHS funding, does the administration consider, as the legal challenges continue, that a vote by the House implicitly endorses the President’s executive actions on immigration?

MR. EARNEST:  No.  And the reason for that is simply I am confident that there are people -- or at least I would hope that there are members of Congress who don’t agree with the President’s executive actions but who do agree that we need to make sure that the Department of Homeland Security is properly and fully funded.

And we’ve said all along that these are two entirely separate issues.  If there are people who disagree with the President’s executive actions, we welcome a conversation with them about comprehensive immigration reform.  There is bipartisan ground for us to find.  There are some common-sense steps that we can take that will be good for our economy, that will ensure that we’re living up to our values as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.  There are things that we can do that would be even be good for the deficit and certainly would do more to take us away from the current system that is pretty much the closest thing that anybody can come up with to amnesty.


Q    Yes, coming back, Major asked a very direct question.  I want to try it again, and I want to plead to you, please do not refer me to the State Department.  (Laughter.)  I’m going to ask you something about the White House, and my question is a very basic one.

MR. EARNEST:  Before you ask it, though, I will do my best to not refer you to the State Department, but I want you to remember, though, that it is the responsibility of the State Department, that agency, to maintain their email system and to ensure the employees there are in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

Q    Okay.  So my direct question is:  Does the White House believe that Hillary Clinton broke the law?  Yes or no. 

MR. EARNEST:  Jon, the --

Q    You’re not going to refer me to the State Department.

MR. EARNEST:  No, I’m not.  I’m going to do my best to answer your question.  And Secretary Clinton’s team has said that, at the request of the State Department, they have reviewed her records to make sure --

Q    I know what her team has said.  I’m just asking, does the White House believe that Hillary Clinton broke the law, or that she fully complied with the law?  What does the White House believe?  Does the President believe that his former Secretary of State broke the law, or that she fully complied with the law?

MR. EARNEST:  Jon, if, in fact -- and again, you will have to go and verify this, and the State Department will have to verify this because we’re talking about --

Q    You can’t give me a direct answer to this?

MR. EARNEST:  Just give me a chance.  That if, in fact, what Secretary Clinton’s team said they were going to do, that they did, and that can be verified by the State Department who is responsible for maintaining these records, that would be entirely consistent with what the Federal Records Act requires.

So again, I’m not in a position -- I was not in a position to review Secretary Clinton’s personal email.  That was the responsibility of Secretary Clinton and her team.  That’s what they say that they did.  They say that they turned over thousands of pages and thousands of emails, including many that were already on the State Department system.  And that entirely consistent with the requirements of the Federal Records Act.

Q    Okay.  Well, let me ask you about something that was said at the podium in June of 2011.  This is while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.  Jay Carney, your predecessor, said, “All our work is conducted on work email accounts.  We are definitely instructed that we need to conduct all of our work on government accounts.” 

MR. EARNEST:  And I think that he was asked specifically about White House staffers, because there were questions that were raised about some work of White House staffers.

Q    I can go back and look, but he said, “While U.S. government policy -- certainly the administration policy -- that is effective here is that all of our work has to be conducted on work email accounts.”  So was the White House unaware that Hillary Clinton was not conducting her work on work email accounts when Jay said that?

MR. EARNEST:  I certainly don’t know whether or not Jay had traded emails with Secretary Clinton.  But --

Q    But he was speaking as the spokesperson for the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  And at the time there were very -- there was clear guidance that was given to White House staffers that is consistent with the guidance that agencies give to their employees, which is that official U.S. government work should be conducted on official U.S. government email systems. 

Q    So why was Hillary Clinton not abiding by that guidance?

MR. EARNEST:  But when there are situations in which personal email is used to conduct official U.S. business, those emails are official government records and should be turned over to the State Department, which is what I understand Secretary Clinton’s team has done.

Q    But now we know that she didn’t even have an official email account; that all of her email -- personal, official, all of it -- was done on a non-government email account. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, the State Department is the one that’s responsible for maintaining their email records, so you’ll have to beg my forgiveness for --

Q    But we were told that government work was done on government emails.  That, I guess, was not correct.

MR. EARNEST:  What I’m saying is that is the guidance that we give to employees -- again, because it is just more -- it saves you a step.  Federal employees in this administration work very hard, and the last thing we need to do is to ask them to take an additional step and make sure that they are --

Q    Well, Hillary never took that step.  She didn’t take that step until almost two years after she left office.

MR. EARNEST:  Hillary Clinton -- Secretary Clinton benefits from something that most federal government employees don’t have, which is a team around them that can review those emails and make sure that all of the emails that relate to her official government work can be properly sent to the State Department so that they can be maintained and preserved.

Q    So the basic question is:  Were people in the White House, senior officials in the White House -- Zeke asked about the President; you’re not going to talk about the President -- but were senior officials in the White House aware that Hillary Clinton was skirting this requirement and using her own personal email account?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think it is fair for you to characterize it that way.

Q    Well, you just acknowledged that the agencies were given guidance that they had to use -- they were to use work email for work business.

MR. EARNEST:  But there are situations, and when there are situations where personal email is used --

Q    This wasn’t a minor exception.  This was all of her work.

MR. EARNEST:  Okay.  But the point is, Jon, is making sure that the records can be properly maintained and preserved.  And Secretary Clinton’s team has taken the necessary steps. According to them -- you should go ask them to confirm this -- but according to them, that’s what they have done.

Q    But that’s two years after she left office.  She was also doing this while she was Secretary of State.  She didn’t turn the emails until she was out of office for 22 months. 

MR. EARNEST:  But the responsibility that Secretary Clinton and previous Secretaries of States have is to make sure that they have looked at their personal email account, collected all of the emails that relate to official government business -- because those are then, by definition, official government records, and those records need to be sent to the State Department so that they can be properly preserved and maintained in coordination with the National Archives and Records Administration. 

And I understand that the State Department has, in response to a legitimate congressional request, turned over some of those records to Congress.  That is the proper handling of those specific government records -- that they are maintained at the State Department and, when necessary, are used to respond to legitimate congressional requests.

Q    Okay, last question.  Is any other Cabinet member in this administration using solely personal emails for government business?  Or is Hillary Clinton the one and only one who did that?

MR. EARNEST:  You will need to check with each of the Cabinet agencies about --

Q    You can’t tell me if there are other Cabinet secretaries who are using personal email accounts for official business?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, the Cabinet secretaries -- you’ll have to ask the individual agencies themselves, because it’s the agencies themselves that are responsible for maintaining the records at their agency, but also responsible for maintaining the email system at their agency.

Q    Have you heard of anybody, a senior official at the White House who just uses personal email?

MR. EARNEST:  I have not encountered that, no.  And I think most people handle it the way that I do, which is that we do our work on our official White House email address.  And on that rare occasion where we get an email to our personal account, we’ll be responsive but also make sure that it’s properly forwarded to our official White House government email address so that it can be properly preserved.

Q    So, I’m sorry, did you find it odd then to learn that the Secretary of State was not doing that?  I mean, you’re very diligent about this, you keep your own records.  Did it surprise you -- the Secretary of State doesn’t do this?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, I'm not surprised by anything.  I’m not surprised by too many things in this job anymore.

So, Peter.

Q    Josh, can we go back to Netanyahu and Iran a little bit?

MR. EARNEST:  Sure.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Who knew that would be your favorite topic today.  (Laughter.)  It says something about the day. 

MR. EARNEST:  It does, doesn’t it?

Q    Can you tell us what the White House’s assessment of what the Prime Minister’s speech does in terms of the President’s ability to sell this deal on Capitol Hill?  If ultimately, if Iran -- if permanent sanctions, were they to mean -- these are two Republican houses that have now shown great enthusiasm and support for what Prime Minister Netanyahu said today.  Does that, in fact, kill the deal for President Obama if he can’t sell it to Congress?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, no.  Let me take this in a couple of different parts.  The first is, the President made pretty clear in the Oval Office when he was talking about this that he’s not focused on the politics or on the theater, he’s focused on resolving the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.  And so he is not going to be distracted from focusing on that threat and he’s hopeful that others won’t be either.

Now, the other thing that’s true is that there was a lot of talk from Prime Minister Netanyahu criticizing, and in some cases even outright condemning, a deal that hasn’t been struck, a deal that doesn’t exist.  So the fact of the matter is there will be ample opportunity for Congress and for the American public to review any agreement that’s struck between the Iranians and the international community, if such an agreement is struck.

Now, what we have said is that the odds of that happening are at best 50/50.  But if we are able to complete this path, and we are able to reach an agreement that extends significantly Iran’s breakout period and puts in place tough verification and inspection measures, then everybody will have an opportunity to evaluate the deal.  And at that point, we can have a discussion and maybe even a debate about whether or not the President is making the right judgment when he says that this is the best possible way for us to resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.  We’re confident that if the agreement is reached and it reflects the kinds of outlines that the President himself has laid out, that that’s the conclusion that fair-minded people will reach.

Q    We’re not talking about fair-minded people, we’re talking about Congress.  (Laughter.)

MR. EARNEST:  The transcript will reflect that you said that, not me.  (Laughter.)

Q    It's true on both sides, all sides.  And in this case, you’re going to have a situation where you’re in effect going to be asking Republicans to trust President Obama’s judgment over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judgment.  Can you honestly say you think that’s a likely scenario?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I can say -- let me say a couple things about that.  The first is, the President is the one who’s responsible for looking out for American national security.  The Israeli Prime Minister himself acknowledged that he’s primarily focused on Israeli national security.

The good news is that because we’re such close allies and because we share such deep common values, that those interests almost always align.  But it does mean that Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking a look at this situation from a slightly different perspective than individuals, including those individuals in Congress, who should be principally focused on American national security.  So that’s the first thing.

The second thing is, members of Congress will have an opportunity to take a look at the agreement that’s been reached between the Iranians and the international community.  And the other thing I think that is relevant here is that we did see a fair amount of skepticism both from Prime Minister Netanyahu and from some Republicans on the Hill about the interim agreement that was put in place between the United States and Iran, the so-called Joint Plan of Action.

And this is an agreement that was put in place a little over a year ago that has been in place while these most recent negotiations have taken place.  And what that Joint Plan of Action did was it ensured daily access to Iranian nuclear facilities at Natanz and Fordow.  It essentially blocked the continued efforts to construct a heavy water reactor at Arak that would have provide a plutonium path to a nuclear weapon. 

It put in place verification measures that would essentially allow daily access to those facilities.  And it put in place inspections measures that would prevent Iran from developing a covert path.  It eliminated Iran’s stockpile of highly-enriched uranium.  It capped their stockpile of low-enriched uranium.  They have not added any additional enrichment facilities.  They have not installed any additional centrifuges since this deal went into place.  And we have the international community in place to verify that they’ve lived up to their terms of the agreement. 

The irony of this whole situation is that a year ago Prime Minister Netanyahu was calling this a historic mistake, but in his speech to Congress today he’s suggesting that this agreement should remain in place in perpetuity. 

The point is, Prime Minister Netanyahu and other critics of our approach to resolving the international community’s with Iran’s nuclear program have routinely, time and again, criticized agreements before they’d been struck, but then once they had been in place, frankly, touted their benefits.

So I guess my point is there will be an opportunity for people to evaluate for themselves the wisdom of the approach that the administration is taking on this.  And the truth is, our track record on this is quite strong. 

Q    One last question.  Is there any chance the President or Secretary Kerry would go back to the table and say, look, guys, look what I’ve got to deal with here, we’ve got to make this deal even stronger than the one I’ve already proposed?

MR. EARNEST:  The fact is the President is already driving a hard bargain at the table -- making sure that we’re going to shut down the four paths to a nuclear weapon that Iran has available to them, making sure that we’ve got, frankly, historically stringent inspection regimes in place to verify that Iran is living up to their end of the agreement. 

And so we’re already driving a very hard bargain here.  And we’re doing this, frankly, in concert with our international partners, and that only strengthens our hand.  The international unity around this is something that is starkly different than what was in place when the President took office.  An approach that just relied solely on sanctions with no real hope of negotiations, frankly, fractured the international community and allowed the Iranian regime to, frankly, unify the opinion inside that country.  But under this President’s leadership, we’ve actually reversed that scenario where the international community is united and we see a lot of cracks in the Iranian government about the wisdom of trying to develop a nuclear weapons program.

Q    So you’re saying there’s no need to revise the negotiating position of the American side at this point of the P5-plus-1?

MR. EARNEST:  Because it’s so strong.


Q    Can I ask you to elaborate on one thing the President said in the Oval Office?  He said foreign policy runs through the executive branch, through the President.  Does he view the speech today as an effort by Congress to usurp his constitutional prerogatives?  Can you elaborate on that?

MR. EARNEST:  I think what’s clear is that Congress, in arranging this speech, tried to go around the executive branch.  This is why you had representatives from the Israeli Prime Minister’s office, or at least the Israeli government, working closely with representatives and the Speaker of the House without informing the executive branch.  And I’m certainly no constitutional scholar, but it is clear that in our founding documents that our Founding Fathers envisioned the President of the United States and the Commander-in-Chief as being the principal policymaker when it comes to foreign policy and for representing the interests of the United States overseas.

Now, it doesn’t mean there’s not a role for Congress, and I welcome a debate about the proper role for Congress, particularly when it comes to passing a right-sized authorization to use military force against ISIL.  So there is a role for Congress to play when it comes to foreign policy, but in this situation we saw congressional leaders -- Republican congressional leaders, I might add -- try to do an end run around the executive branch, and that was a departure from protocol.

Q    And by saying that today so pointedly, is he trying to send a message to them that he’s not going to stand for that?

MR. EARNEST:  No, I don’t think -- I think the President was responding to a direct question that he’d received from a journalist in the Oval Office, and it’s entirely consistent with the case that we’ve been making for weeks now that this represented a departure from protocol and certainly threatened to inject partisan politics in a relationship that has long benefitted from strong bipartisan support.


Q    Despite that departure from protocol, didn’t you hear the Prime Minister show respect to the President by saying he’s done enormous things for Israel, things that are public, other things that are private that might be classified?  So why didn’t the President show the Prime Minister the respect of, A, watching the speech or, B, at least sending an official of some level -- any official -- to go?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, two reasons for that, Ed.  The first is, the President was not able to watch Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech because he was preparing for and convened a meeting with our --

Q    But you added that right before the speech, right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, this is a meeting that had been in the works for at least a couple of weeks, and it was an opportunity for the President to visit with his counterparts in Europe about the urgent situation in Ukraine.  So this was an important foreign policy priority as well, and something the President was preparing for and leading in the midst of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech.  But the President did show the Prime Minister the respect of reading his speech and both talking about it in public and even responding to a question about it.

Q    When the President said he heard no viable alternative from the Prime Minister, does that mean the President was expecting some sort of a plan for a deal with Iran or some other way to prevent Iran?  Did he want a plan?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what the President had said is that the path that we are pursuing is the one that can most successfully address the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapon.  If there are concerns about this plan, then it’s not fair to just sit on the sidelines and complain about a plan.  You are under some pressure and even an obligation, particularly if you consider this a priority, to present your own plan that you think would be better.  And we didn’t hear that.  And the President would make the case, as he did in the Oval Office, that there is not a better plan that exists.

Q    Except we don’t know what the plan is.  Isn’t it hypocritical to say, Mr. Prime Minister, lay out the details of a plan when you’re saying today, again, there is no deal.  And you’re worried about leaks and you don’t want any of the details to come out.  So the Prime Minister doesn’t know, the American people don’t know.  So how can you demand a plan from the Prime Minister when we don’t know what your plan is?

MR. EARNEST:  I see what you did there, Ed.  That’s what the kids do on the Internet.  (Laughter.) 

Q    You said you want a plan.  We don’t know your plan.

MR. EARNEST:  This is what’s clear -- is the President has a very clear strategy that he has laid out, a plan for resolving the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapon.  And that is a plan that would extend the breakout period to 12 months, more than the two or three months that currently exist according to experts.

And what also would be part of that deal is a proposal to put in place historically stringent inspection measures to ensure that Iran is living up to their end of the bargain.  And that is, in the mind of the President, the best possible way for us to resolve the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.  If there is anyone out there -- a Republican, a Democrat, a leader in the Israeli government -- who thinks that they have a better way for resolving the international community’s concerns about their nuclear program, then we’d like to see them put that plan forward.

What we know is that the military option does not do as much to resolve Iran’s -- the international community’s concerns with Iran’s nuclear program.  This is the best possible path, and it depends, however, on one thing.  It depends on Iran and their political leadership making some difficult decisions to agree to this plan.  And there is reason for them to not.  It is a tough deal.  It requires them to roll back key aspects of their nuclear program.  It requires them to abandon what we know, despite their protestations, has been an objective of at least some government leaders in Iran, which is to develop a nuclear weapon.  And we know it will require them to submit to the kind of inspections measures that they have previously resisted.

So it is a tough deal.  There is a reason why some people in Iran may say no.  But it would clearly be in the best interest of the international community if Iran says yes.

Q    A couple other quick topics.  On Hillary Clinton, in answer to Jon when you said at least once “according to them,” about Hillary Clinton’s people, according to them, these are all the emails -- are you acknowledging that this White House has made no effort and is making no effort to determine whether or not your Secretary of State broke the law?  You’re just laying it all on them?  Are you making any independent effort to find out if she broke the law?

MR. EARNEST:  Ed, it’s the responsibility of State Department officials to ensure that State Department employees are in compliance with the Federal Records Act.

Q    And you don’t hold them accountable?

MR. EARNEST:  And what those State Department officials have done is they’ve asked all of the previous-serving Secretaries of State to forward their personal email records that may pertain to official government business.  If they have personal email records that pertain to official government business, those are official government records and they should be properly maintained and preserved by the State Department.  That is exactly what Secretary Clinton’s team has done.

Q    A couple other quick questions on accountability as well.  This administration has been more aggressive than any other in trying to prosecute people for leaking classified information -- journalists who have either published or seen classified information working on stories -- and yet, General Petraeus, your Justice Department finds, leaked classified information.  And he gets off with a misdemeanor and is not doing any jail time.  What kind of signal does that send, that if you’re a senior member of the President’s administration, you leak classified information, you’re not going to jail but other people are?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, I don’t actually think that the Justice Department did find that he disclosed classified information.  The charge that he pled to was the improper handling of classified information.  That’s different than the disclosure.

Q    There was a black book of code words, spy names, the President’s briefings.  That’s not classified information? 

MR. EARNEST:  Ed, the charge that General Petraeus pled to was related to the improper handling of classified information.  That is different than the disclosure that you asserted.  For more details on that investigation, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.  But certainly the President believes that it was appropriate for General Petraeus to take responsibility for his actions.

Q    And last thing.  Yesterday, you had a question from Bloomberg about executive action on taxes.  And some people are interpreting this that you left the door open to the President raising taxes by executive action.  Is that possible?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, what I will leave open is always the President’s ability to use his executive authority to move the country in the right direction, to expand opportunity for the middle class -- 

Q    I didn’t asking you about moving the country forward or backward.  Would the President raise taxes by executive action?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, there are laws that are in place that deal with Congress and their power of the purse.  And it is Congress’s responsibility to make decisions about the budget.  It's why we have had such an extensive conversation about the Department of Homeland Security.  The President has put forward his own tax proposal for how he thinks we can work with Congress to close loopholes that only benefit wealthy and well-connected corporations, and use the revenue that’s generated to invest in the kind of infrastructure that will create jobs and strengthen our economy over the long term. 

We’ve been very clear about what those policies are.  But when it comes to specific steps the President may or may not take, I'm not going to rule anything in or out.  This is related to the President’s ability to use his executive authority to do what he thinks is the right thing for the country.  That, after all, is what the American people elected him to do.  And the fact is we haven’t seen a lot of efficient production out of Congress over the last couple of months.  Maybe, however, with the passage of funding for the Department of Homeland Security, maybe they’ve turned a corner.


Q    I'm going to try in the French way because Hillary Clinton is really a world figure, as you may know.  Do you think Hillary Clinton did a mistake in the White House opinion?  I mean, is it -- did she do a mistake?

MR. EARNEST:  What Secretary Clinton and her team have done is they have complied with the guidelines of the Federal Records Act.  That is what the State Department agency is tasked with ensuring happens.  That is why they put in the request to Secretary Clinton and to the other Secretaries of State who have served in the email era.  These are Secretaries of State who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.  They asked them to turn over records in their personal email accounts that may relate to the conduct of official U.S. business.  And they asked for those records so that they could be properly maintained and preserved at the Department of State. 

The Department of State would be responsible in the future, alongside the National Archives and Records Administration, to produce records in response to legitimate requests from Congress or from the public, or even, down the road, to historians that want to evaluate decisions that are made in this administration.

And that’s the way that these records should be properly handled.  That was the responsibility of Secretary Clinton’s team, and by their own reckoning here, they’ve handled the situation properly.

Q    I have another question on Ukraine. The President spoke today with President Hollande in a video teleconference.  What can you tell us about that?

MR. EARNEST:  The President did convene a secure video teleconference with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the European Council this morning in support of our continued efforts toward a negotiated solution to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine.  This, of course, follows a Normandy Group call among the leaders of France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine that took place yesterday.

You will also recall, at the end of last week the National Security Advisor Susan Rice convened a secure video teleconference with her counterparts in these European countries as well.  That was essentially the predicate for the meeting at the leader level. 

And it was an opportunity, in the context of that meeting, for the President to condemn the continuing failure of Russia and the separatists it backs to abide by the commitments to which they agreed, first in the Minsk agreements in September of last year and, more recently, in the Minsk Implementation Plan, including the attack on Debaltseve. 

I anticipate we’ll have a more detailed readout of that meeting a little later this afternoon.  This will be a readout that reflects the views of all six countries that participated in the teleconference, so it takes a little while for us to get the readout signed off on, but I anticipate we’ll have some more details this afternoon. 


Q    I just wanted to clarify, did any senior official in the White House know that Secretary Clinton did not have an official email account? 

MR. EARNEST:  What I know is I know that the Secretary of State did trade emails with some White House officials. 

Q    So there were people in the White House who were aware of that?

MR. EARNEST:  They were aware of at least one email address that she was using.

Q    You can’t say whether or not anyone at the senior level in the White House knew that she solely was using a personal email account?

MR. EARNEST:  No.  And, frankly, I’d be surprised if anybody did.  But I don’t know the answer to that.  And the reason for that is that it's the responsibility of the State Department to maintain these email systems.  It’s important for people to understand that it’s not as if there is one email system that applies across the federal government.  Each agency is responsible for maintaining their own system.

Q    Does the White House have a view then on whether other Cabinet -- it’s okay for other Cabinet officials to not have an official government email account?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the guidance that other Cabinet officials is similar to the guidance that officials all across the government have gotten, which is that they should use their official government account for official government business.

Q    But it’s different than not having a government account.  So does this White House think it’s okay for any other Cabinet official to not have a government account?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, we think that if people choose to conduct government business on email, that they should do so using their official government account.  I guess if you choose not to do any government business on email, I guess it would be fine for you to not have a government account.

The point is -- and this is the critical part, and this is what I think has attracted all of your attention -- is ensuring that official government records that exist in personal email accounts need to be properly maintained and preserved.  And they can do that by making sure that those emails are properly sent to the agency officials who are working with the National Archives and Records Administration to do exactly that.

Q    Okay.  So if you’re not clear on what exactly is happening in terms of how senior officials throughout the administration are handling their use of email, how does that reflect on this administration’s commitment to being the most transparent administration in history?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Carol, what’s important is it’s important for everybody in the administration to abide by the guidelines that are laid out in the Federal Records Act.  And the President signed into law a bill at the end of last year that clarified exactly the guidelines and time frame under which individuals who have official government records in their personal email -- how they can ensure that those records are properly preserved and maintained in line with the standards that are set by the Federal Records Act. 

That is sort of at the core of it our chief concern, is making sure that these records are properly preserved, that they’re properly maintained, that they can be used in response to legitimate congressional oversight, that they can be used to respond to legitimate inquiries from the public, that they can even be used by historians in the future who are trying to get greater insight into decision-making inside the administration. 

So the proper preservation and maintenance of those records is what we’re after.  That is something that each agency is responsible for doing when it comes to records at their own agency.  They do this in conjunction and in partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration.  And, again, based on what we know about what Secretary Clinton’s team did that they succeeded in that effort in making sure that those records are properly preserved and maintained.  And we have some evidence to back that up in that hundreds of those records, we know, have been turned over to Congress in response to legitimate oversight from Congress.

Q    On Prime Minister Netanyahu, is there any concern within the White House that this is such a bilateral fight, meaning is there -- would the White House like some of the other leaders of the P5-plus-1 to back the President up on his view of taking on some of the criticism that the Prime Minister leveled today?

MR. EARNEST:  To be blunt about it, no.  The President feels very confident in the position that he has taken.  And it reflects the views of our negotiating partners in the P5-plus-1. It also reflects the view of the broader international community. The President also is confident -- and he’s been presented zero evidence to the contrary -- that the strategy that he is pursuing is the one that is best equipped to resolve the threat related to Iran’s nuclear program.

So the President is confident in this.  And the President, frankly, is looking forward to what he hopes will be an opportunity for the broader international community to evaluate the agreement that’s been reached between Iran and the international community.

But, ultimately, that’s going to require Iran to agree to some very tough things, both as it relates to rolling back key aspects of their nuclear program, but also as it relates to agreeing to the kind of monitoring requirements that they have previously chafed under.  So everybody will have an opportunity to evaluate the wisdom of this approach for themselves once a deal has been reached, if a deal has been reached.

Q    Would the President revise the deal if people don’t like the deal?

Q    In the speech itself, Nancy Pelosi called it an insult to the intelligence of the U.S. as part of the P5-plus-1 and suggested it was condescending.  Is she right?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I didn’t have an opportunity to see her comments.  I know that she was planning to attend the speech today and she’s certainly entitled to her own opinion and her own reaction.

Q    Was it an insult to the intelligence of the U.S. as part of the P5-plus-1?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think you heard very clearly the President’s own reaction.  And the President’s view is that he’s not going to be distracted by the politics or the theater.  He’s going to be focused on our goal, which is eliminating the threat from Iran’s nuclear program.

Q    Another Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, called it a powerful speech, even though she agrees largely with the position that you all are taking.  Would you call it a powerful speech?  And if so, is there any concern about the impact that it might have on public opinion?

MR. EARNEST:  What the President is confident of is that once there is an opportunity for us to evaluate a deal, if a deal is reached, that the President will be able to make a very persuasive case about how lengthening the breakout period and putting in place very tough monitoring restrictions -- or very tough monitoring requirements -- that we can make a very good case that this is the best possible way for us to confront the threat from Iran’s nuclear program; that if we know that what’s happening in Iran’s nuclear program on a daily basis, and if we know that at a minimum it would take Iran a year to break out and build a nuclear weapon, that we have resolved the international community’s concerns with that program.  We’ve eliminated that threat.

Now, it would require vigilance.  It’s going to require the international community and our international inspectors to continue to carefully inspect Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.  We're going to have to be vigilant about making sure that Iran lives up to this deal.  But if we do, we know that Iran will not be able to acquire a nuclear weapon.  And that will prevent a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.  It will prevent Iran from being able to use that nuclear weapon to menace our strongest ally in the region, and it will strengthen the ability of the international community to deal with the volatility in the Middle East.

Q    So would a correct summary of the White House position on this speech be that you don't think it will have a negative impact -- negative from your perspective -- negative impact on either public opinion, on the ability of the President to sell the deal to Congress, or the negotiations themselves?

MR. EARNEST:  I think the easiest way to distill the reaction from the White House is that it doesn't change the President’s mind about the wisdom of the approach that he’s pursing.

Q    But it may change the mind of people who he needs to get this deal done.

MR. EARNEST:  And it should raise serious questions in the minds of people who doubt that pursuit because no alternative has been presented.  And until there is, there is no reason to think that the President isn’t right when he says that this strategy is the way that we can -- is the best possible way for us to resolve the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program.


Q    Josh, thanks.  Since you came out to the podium there was a report from AP that a Justice Department investigation has found patterns of racial bias in the Ferguson Police Department. I assume the President knew this was coming.  Do you have a reaction from him yet?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't know that he necessarily was.  This is -- the Department of Justice has indicated that they’ve been investigating the Ferguson Police Department for some time now.  I don't know that he necessarily was aware of the results of that investigation prior to its completion and release.  And I haven’t seen the report that you're referring to, so I don't even know if it reflects a completed report, or just leaks about an investigation that's still underway.  So I’d be reluctant to comment on it from here.

Q    One more thing about Netanyahu’s speech.  Both you and the President have used the word “theater” to describe the speech, which implies entertainment value.  Is that really how the President looks at it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I had an opportunity to see some parts of the speech, and I know that there are others who noticed that there seemed to be some members of Congress who sort of seemed to be smiling and laughing and applauding along, which certainly doesn't seem to an appropriate response to a speech on such a significant topic.

Now, I noticed that the Prime Minister certainly didn't have that demeanor.  But I do think that that contributed to the more theatrical aspects of today’s event.


Q    Josh, thanks.  Hi.

MR. EARNEST:  Nice to see you here.

Q    Good to see you, too.

MR. EARNEST:  I also read you recently got engaged.

Q    Thank you.  Yes, I did.

MR. EARNEST:  So best wishes to you.  (Applause.)   

Q    Thank you so much.  I wanted to ask -- I know this came up earlier very briefly about former CIA Director Petraeus’s pleading guilty to mishandling classified information.  I just wanted to know if the White House has a broader reaction to his plea today.

MR. EARNEST:  No, that's really it.  For more details about the investigation, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.

All right, JC, I’ll give you the last one.

Q    I’ve been married for 23 years. 

MR. EARNEST:  There you go.  Congratulations to you and your wife.

Q    Thank you.  If I may change the topic to ISIL, something we haven’t talked about in a while.


Q    About a week ago, the head of Egypt, President Sisi, recommended a, if you will, strong coalition of the willing Arab nations to combat ISIL in the region.  Was there any discussion today over that videoconference with the leaders -- these many leaders -- that that might be a good idea to join that coalition for really a universal coalition of the willing to fight ISIL?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't have a detailed readout of the teleconference, but we’ll have something later on this afternoon. I can just tell you as a general matter that the President is certainly very appreciative of the commitment that we’ve seen from members of the coalition to this effort to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.  And it’s taken a variety of forms, everything from trying to combat the movement of foreign fighters to countering the online activities of ISIL to radicalize citizens across the globe.  It’s included a comprehensive effort to shut down sources of funding for ISIL.  But it also has, of course, included a substantial commitment of military resources to fight ISIL. 

And we are counting on countries in the region to take some responsibility for fighting ISIL.  And whether that is training local fighters -- we know that there are some countries in the region that have committed to host training programs for members of the moderate Syrian opposition so that they can be trained and equipped by our coalition partners so that they can take the fight to ISIL on the ground in their own country.  And we certainly would welcome those kinds of contributions to this broader effort. 

Q    Thank you, Josh.

MR. EARNEST:  All right, thanks, everybody.

3:19 P.M. EST