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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 5/1/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room *Please see below for a correction, marked with an asterisk. 1:20 P.M. EDT MR. EARNEST: Good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. I don’t have anything at the top, other than you’ve already heard from the President today about -- with his reaction to the announcement from the State’s Attorney up in Baltimore. Q Thank you, Mr. Bill Plante. MR. EARNEST: Exactly. Thank you, Mr. Bill Plante. And the President genuinely enjoyed the opportunity that he had to visit with some of your colleagues who are working overseas, sometimes in -- in the case of these three journalists, and under very difficult circumstances to do the important work that they’re doing. So with that, Jim, let’s go straight to questions. Q Thanks, Josh. A couple foreign policy things. U.S. officials say Secretary Kerry is going to visit Saudi Arabia next week to discuss apparent concerns over the supply of arms to pro-government forces in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and its coalition. Is there evidence that those weapons are falling into terrorist hands? And does the President worry about the Saudi intervention in Yemen? MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, the thing that we have articulated is that we strongly support the efforts of the Saudis who are reacting to legitimate concerns that they have about the security situation along their border. The Saudis have indicated a willingness and a desire to begin to deescalate their operations, but they have not seen a corresponding commitment to de-escalation on the part of the Houthis. In fact, we see the Houthis continue to carry out offensive military operations, particularly in the neighborhoods of Aden and in places like Marib and Taiz. We continue to be concerned about that, because it’s the view of the United States that this violence needs to stop so that we can do two critically important things. The first is to respond to the dire humanitarian situation that exists in Yemen right now. There are millions of people who are caught in the crossfire, and we continue to be very concerned about their wellbeing. We know that the supply of food and fuel, and other critical needs had been interrupted, and we’re concerned about the impact that’s having on the local population there. The second -- and this is also critically important -- is we understand that this situation will not be resolved militarily, and it’s why we’re calling for the rapid and unconditional resumption of all-party negotiations in Yemen. But that obviously is going to require all parties in Yemen to demonstrate a commitment to those talks. And as long as the Houthis continue to engage in violence and other military actions, it’s going to prevent these two important things from happening. Q I wanted to come back to a question that Jon Karl asked you the other day regarding Iranian vessels in the Strait of Hormuz. Yesterday and today we’ve had U.S. ships accompanying U.S.-flagged ships through the strait. Apparently that offer is being extended to other countries. There was an incident last Friday where a U.S. vessel was approached by Iranian vessels without incident, but nevertheless they surrounded the ship. I wonder if those are the kinds of -- you’ve tried to separate the nuclear talks from other issues with Iran. But isn’t what’s going on in the strait suggest that kind of lack of trust that is absolutely necessary to carry out the nuclear talks? And has the administration communicated to the Iranians that that kind of activity actually jeopardizes the nuclear talks themselves? MR. EARNEST: Jim, I think what we’ve communicated both publicly and privately is that the United States and the international community is not at all willing to trust the Iranians. That’s why we will insist upon, in the context of these ongoing nuclear negotiations, a set of historically intrusive inspections. In fact, what President Obama has indicated must be part of any nuclear agreement, if one can be reached, is the most intrusive set of inspections that have ever been imposed on a country’s nuclear program. And that’s precisely because Iran has a long history of trying to circumvent these kinds of agreements and these kinds of inspections programs. So we’re going to insist on, again, a set of historically intrusive inspections to their nuclear program that doesn’t just involve inspections of their nuclear facilities; it’s going to require inspections of other facilities that are even tangentially related to their nuclear facilities. So, for example, one of the things that we’ll insist on in the context of these talks is access for our inspectors to manufacturing facilities that we know have in the past manufactured critical components of their nuclear program. So again, we’re not just going to be in the nuclear facilities inspecting to make sure that they haven't, for example, improperly installed new centrifuges. We’re actually going to go to the manufacturing facility where the centrifuges are made, and make sure that nothing that is being produced at that facility is inconsistent with the broader agreement. So that’s just one example to illustrate what makes this set of inspections so intrusive, and is I think a legitimate response to Iran’s lack of candor around these issues in the past. Now, the other thing that’s true is we do not anticipate that these nuclear negotiations will resolve the long list of concerns that we have with Iranian behavior. I think some of the behavior that we’ve seen in this region over the last couple of weeks -- and it certainly applies to the situation in Yemen -- we know that Iran acts in a destabilizing way in an already very volatile region of the world. We continue to be concerned about that. That’s not good for global peace and security. It certainly isn’t good for the ability of commerce to flow on the open seas in that region of the world. And we continue to be concerned about it. That said, one of the reasons that we -- and when I say we, I mean the United States and the international community -- are so focused on this nuclear issue is we know that it would be even more difficult to resolve our concerns about Iran’s nuclear -- about Iran’s destabilizing activities is if Iran had a nuclear weapon. That would make them even more destabilizing, and it would make their threats and, in some cases, their irresponsible behavior even more dangerous. I mean, you could only imagine the kinds of conversations and concerns that we would have about Iran’s ongoing support for the Houthis if we knew that Iran had the potential to transfer a nuclear weapon to the Houthis. Q But what leverage do you have to alter that behavior if, on the one hand, you’re telling them that you’re willing to remove sanctions -- whether immediately or over time, depending on who’s defining it -- and altering the behavior that you’re expressing concern about now? MR. EARNEST: Well, let me take that in two ways. The first is, we’ve been crystal clear -- and this is not going to change -- sanctions relief will not be granted to the Iranians until they have taken specific, verifiable steps to comply with the agreement. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement would allow them to benefit from some sanctions relief. But that sanctions relief would only be granted from sanctions that are targeting their nuclear program. The United States and the international community has a set of sanctions in place against Iran because of their support for terrorism, because of their weapons proliferation activity, and for a variety of -- for human rights violations, and for a variety of other things. Those sanctions are unaffected by our ongoing nuclear talks, and that is indicative of the list of concerns that we have with Iranian behavior, and I think is an indication of the kind of leverage that the international community still has over Iran as it relates to other concerning activities in which they engage. Q On a more local subject, the President lately, including yesterday, has been talking about the end of his presidency. He talked about it with the young town hall meeting yesterday, that his presidency is going to going to be ending, and he talked about what he would be doing afterward. Yesterday, we had news about his library being located in Chicago. So I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit about what the President is thinking about in terms of how he establishes a legacy, a legacy that would be promoted in this library and so forth. He’s talked about staying involved in My Brother’s Keeper program, for instance. Can you give us a sense of how actively the President thinks of his legacy as the plans around the library starting taking shape? MR. EARNEST: Jim, there’s a reason that the President has asked some close supporters and friends of his to take on the responsibility of establishing a foundation and a library in his name. That’s principally because the President is so focused on the job that he has now that he is going to rely on a handful of individuals that he trusts to begin to carry out that work. Now, it is true that the President has had a number of conversations with those individuals, so I’m not going to stand up here and tell you that the President hasn’t given some thought to this. But the fact is, given the long list of priorities that are on his plate right now, those things take precedence over the design and establishment of his library. Speaking more generally, I can tell you that the President is so focused on those priorities that are on his desk right now because he is committed to making sure that he squeezes every last bit of opportunity that he has in his remaining days in the Oval Office. And there is still a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done, and there’s still a tremendous amount that the President would like to do to advance the agenda and the vision that he has for the country. And I would expect that at some point, at the end of the presidency, that people -- observers, historians, commentators -- will take a look at the progress that the President has been able to make. And that is how an analysis of his legacy will get started, and that’s all the more reason the President is so focused on the task at hand. Julia. Q Josh, on trade, Congressman James Cliburn, the assistant Democratic Leader, has said that he doesn’t know if TPA will get 20 votes from Democrats. Is the President more optimistic than that? And can you give us a readout of the President’s meeting yesterday with the new Democrats around this? MR. EARNEST: I don’t have an updated whip count to share with you. Somebody like Mr. Cliburn would have much more insight into that than I would. I can tell you that, as evidenced by the President’s meeting yesterday, he is personally involved in making the case to Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, in both the House and the Senate, about why they should be supportive of trade promotion authority. That would make it easier for the President to negotiate in complete a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that he believes is clearly in the best interest of middle-class families in the United States. That is the baseline case that the President makes in private to Democratic and Republican members of Congress. In the context of the meeting they had yesterday, they obviously spent a substantial period of time -- substantial amount of time talking about this issue. But there were other legislative priorities that merited some attention as well. Q Okay. Also, today the Justice Department said that it would be making $20 million available for the purchase of body cameras, and this is part of the $75 million that Obama announced in December to be rolled out over three years. But given everything that’s happened in North Charleston and Baltimore, and the events of 2014 as well, is there a push to try to roll out more body cameras this year? Hillary Clinton just said on Wednesday that she thought that every police officer, every department should have body cameras. MR. EARNEST: Well, Julia, included in that funding is an amount of money that is earmarked for further study of the impact of body-worn cameras by police officers. There is some preliminary evidence to indicate that police officers wearing body cameras leads to lower rates of conflict between police officers and citizens of the community that they’re serving. There is some evidence to indicate that it’s also led to fewer acts of violence being carried out. That’s a good thing. But there’s an additional study that’s needed, and that will be part of what this money will be focused on. You’ll also note that in the President’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, it included an increase in funding for local police agencies to get support from the federal government to purchase body-worn cameras. So we’re certainly open to the idea that additional funds can and should be used by local law enforcement agencies to purchase body-worn cameras. But we’ll have to wait and see if there is agreement on Capitol Hill in pursuit of that priority. Sunlen. Q I wanted to ask you about the White House’s engagement with what’s going on in Baltimore. There’s reports that the White House has reached out to specific sports figures and celebrities, like Ray Lewis, like Carmelo Anthony, to try to ease tensions on the grounds in some of their hometowns of Baltimore. How broad and extensive is this outreach? Is this something that also the White House will continue in the days going forward? MR. EARNEST: Well, Sunlen, I don’t have any individual phone calls to tell you about, but there are obviously a number of prominent citizens or former citizens of Baltimore that have relationships in the administration and here at the White House. And there is an important role for leaders in that community to stand up and to encourage their fellow Baltimore residents to express their legitimate concerns publicly but peacefully. And there’s a role for people like Ray Lewis, who is obviously a very well-respected member of the Baltimore community. And it means a lot to have somebody like him standing up and saying, I’m concerned about this incident too, but I’m also committed to making sure that if I communicate my concerns in public, that I do so peacefully. And I think that serves as a useful way for us to get the message out to the people of Baltimore. Now, the good news is that the vast majority of the people of Baltimore have heard that message. And we’ve heard that the vast majority of people in Baltimore are doing the right thing and are acting responsibly, and are raising legitimate concerns that are worthy of our attention. But we also want to make sure that we build on the momentum that we’re seeing in terms of the lessening of the violence and disruption and criminal activity, frankly, that characterized some evenings in Baltimore earlier this week. Q So that wasn’t something that the White House specifically asked of these two particular individuals? MR. EARNEST: The White House and other senior administration officials have been in touch with other prominent Baltimore residents. Because there is an opportunity for those Baltimore residents to speak out, to make their concerns known, but also to encourage the public to relay their own concerns in a peaceful fashion that’s appropriate, that’s constructive, and that’s what we’re encouraging everybody to do. And if there’s an opportunity for us to rely on particularly well-respected voices in Baltimore to deliver that message, then we’re going to encourage them to do so and that’s exactly what we’ve done. Q Earlier today in the Roosevelt Room the President indicated he had a conference call with mayors scheduled for later today. Is that something that was previously scheduled before Baltimore? MR. EARNEST: That’s something that was previously scheduled. This is the Cities United convening. The President -- there are a number of mayors, I think a dozen or so, who are meeting up in Philadelphia this weekend to talk about a range of issues, including the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. So this is an annual event that happens to be occurring at a rather timely moment. This group first convened last year in New Orleans. The President called into that meeting as well. And the President is looking forward to having a conversation with the mayors and police chiefs from these cities to talk about the My Brother’s Keeper initiative and to talk about the 21st century policing taskforce that’s generated so much good work and good ideas for how local law enforcement agencies and cities can do a better job of building some trust between those law enforcement officers and the communities that they serve. This is a bipartisan group of mayors and it’s an opportunity for us to make clear what a priority this is to the President. Q And one other about My Brother’s Keeper, but I just want to ask about the President’s engagement in Baltimore. We know that he has been getting regular briefings at least once a day, we know -- according to Valerie Jarrett -- that he is watching this very carefully, but how would you describe his personal engagement, behind the scenes, on this? MR. EARNEST: I think the best way to describe it to you is that the President is concerned about what we’ve seen in Baltimore and he is concerned in a couple of different ways. One is that over the last week or two we have seen exposed that the police department in a major U.S. city has some important work to do to build trust with some of the citizens that they’re sworn to serve and protect. And there we have seen, I think, a commitment from the mayor and the police commissioner, and other leaders in that community to doing the important work of trying to rebuild that trust where it’s necessary. I think the President I think was obviously concerned when he talked about this on Tuesday in the Rose Garden about the criminal actions of a small minority who were stirring up violence. And I think he was concerned that that was overshadowing the legitimate concerns that were being properly expressed by the vast majority of the people -- by the citizens of Baltimore. So there are a couple of different reasons why the President has been focused on this and it certainly is, as the President mentioned, consistent with a cycle that we’ve seen all too often over the last not just few months but last years. And the President believes that we all need to take some responsibility for trying to address some of these problems that have been unearthed in such graphic fashion in Baltimore. Q And on My Brother’s Keeper, that initiative announcement from the White House that on Monday the President will travel to the Bronx to talk about how this is being morphed or changed into his outside foundation. What’s the President’s role in that? And will that be a role that he continues to have after he leaves the White House? MR. EARNEST: Well, we’ll have some more details about the My Brother’s Keeper alliance next week, but the general idea here is that there will be this outside organization that’s formed to serve essentially as a structure that can support the ongoing work of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. And while I would not -- while I’m not in a position to describe the specific, detailed relationship between the President and this alliance that will continue after his presidency, I can tell you that this is an issue that the President intends to continue to be focused on, long after he has left the Oval Office. Julie. Q Thanks, Josh. I have a couple on trade but I want to first clarify something you said on Iran. You seem to be making the argument, and we heard you make it earlier this week, that the more Iran does to add to the United States long list of concerns about their destabilizing behavior, the more important it is to get a nuclear deal. I’m just wondering, is that not a dangerous message to be sending to Iran and the region at this point? Is there anything that Iran could do that would cause the United States to say we shouldn’t be negotiating with them, no matter what the importance is of getting a nuclear deal? MR. EARNEST: Well, Julie, I don’t think I’m making the case that it’s even more important. I think I’m making the case that it highlights why it’s so important for us to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and that they engage in these destabilizing activities, they support terrorism, that’s why preventing them from obtaining a nuclear weapon is such a top national security priority of the United States. I mean, as it relates to the messages that we’re sending to Iran, there’s also some danger in the message of suggesting that there might be something that Iran could do that would cause us to step away from the talks. We know that there are some people in Iran who certainly don’t support the effort to try to resolve this situation diplomatically. So that’s not a message that I’m going to send from here. But what I will say is consistent with I think the views of our partners who are around the negotiating table, which is that this is a clear priority for the world, it’s clearly in the best interest of trying to achieve some regional stability in already -- or at least add some stability to an already very volatile region of the world that is experiencing some pretty significant turmoil right now. And there is no one who is out there suggesting -- it’s not just me and it’s not just the United States -- there’s no one that’s out there suggesting that this is the only concern that they have with Iran. And there’s no one who is suggesting that the successful resolution of this diplomatic opportunity is going to ease their concerns about many of the other things that Iran does that people around the world find objectionable and even dangerous. So our priorities here are clear. And I think they absolutely are consistent with the broader international security priorities of the United States. Q On trade, the President has also been saying that part of the reason TPP is so essential is because NAFTA had problems and caused issues for American workers that would be fixed under TPP. So does he agree with the finding in the Council of Economic Adviser’s report today that U.S. trade deals have not actually caused outsourcing of jobs? MR. EARNEST: Well, I don’t know that that’s -- I think the way that I’ve heard the President talk about this in the past -- I’ll let the CEA talk about the specifics of their findings, I didn’t see that specific finding in their report but I could have missed it, and if so, then I’m happy to have somebody talk to you about it in more detail. What I’ve heard the President talk about is that the case that others have made is that trade agreements in the past have had a disproportionately bad impact on some cohort of blue-collar and middle-class workers in this country. And the President’s view is that a large part of that is attributable to the fact that there haven’t previously been the kind of enforceable labor and environmental standards that are so critical to a level playing field. And that’s a lesson that we can learn from previous trade agreements; that in NAFTA, for example, labor protections were included in a side letter accompanying the broader agreement. The President believes that we should have enforceable provisions written into the agreement that will ensure that all parties to the trade deal would live up to the high standards that we’re all agreeing to, and that by doing so, we’re going to level the playing field and open up a wide variety of opportunities for American businesses to compete on that level playing field, and to do so in one of the most economically dynamic regions of the world. That is going to be good for our broader economy, it’s going to be good for American businesses, and it’s going to be good for the vast majority of American workers. What’s also true is that the President is mindful of the kinds of benefits that are included with trade adjustment assistance. And this is one of the things that the President has aggressively advocated for, and the Congress as well -- that if there are situations where there are some workers who are adversely affected, we want to make sure that we’re ready to step in, get the kind of training and skills that they need so that they can capitalize on the opportunities that are created. And there’s no doubting that there are a wide -- as I mentioned earlier, a wide variety of opportunities that are created. And we want to make sure that our workers in this country have access to the skills that they need to capitalize on those opportunities. After all, that's also going to be good for the businesses that are also -- that are trying to capitalize on these overseas opportunities, as well. If there’s additional work that needs to be done, if there are additional goods or services that are going to be shipped overseas, then they're going to need to add to their payroll. And we need to make sure that they have available skilled workers that can do those jobs. And the other thing that I know, that I think is included in here, is that there’s plenty of economic evidence to indicate that those American jobs that are directly related to exports on average pay more than the average job in the job market. And that's yet another reason that the President believes that a trade agreement that levels the playing field in an economically dynamic region of the world is good for businesses, it’s good for our broader economy. It also creates really important opportunities for middle-class families all across the country. Q Just one more quickly on Nike next week. I’m curious how the White House or the President selected that company to visit to talk about the benefits of trade. Nike has had some pretty high-profile problems with overseas manufacturing operations, low labor standards, low wages. And it’s sort of seen as something of a poster child, or has been in the past for the ills of globalization for American workers. So I’m just wondering why Nike. MR. EARNEST: Well, we’ll have a lot more to say about the President’s visit to the Nike headquarters next week, when the President travels out to Oregon. Let me just say as a general matter that the President believes that by raising labor standards and raising environmental standards in Southeast Asia principally, but all throughout the Asia Pacific region, that will level the playing field for American businesses. And no longer will companies be able to gain an unfair advantage by capitalizing on those low labor standards. And the case the President has made is that if the United States doesn't engage in this region of the world, and we don't take advantage of the opportunity to reach an agreement that will raise labor and environmental standards, then what we're likely to see is we're likely to see China step in. And China, seeking an advantage for their economy, will seek to lower environmental standards, and lower labor standards in a way that will put U.S. companies at an even greater disadvantage than they already face. So in the mind of the President, there is a pretty clear choice to be made, and it’s -- again, this is the case that the President makes to Democrats and to progressives who say that they are more concerned about the impact of these trade agreements in middle-class workers. The President says he’s got exactly the same concern. And his concern is failing to engage in this region of the world essentially ratifies the status quo and puts the United States and our economy at risk of being further undermined by our economic competitors that don't have an incentive in raising labor and environmental standards. So that's why the President -- that's why you see so much passion from the President on this issue. It’s principally because there is an important opportunity for us to capitalize on. And failing to do so doesn't just mean that there’s a missed opportunity, it means that there is a significant downside, as well -- which is that failing to capitalize on this opportunity, as the President said, essentially puts into place the status quo, cements the status quo, and in the future could expose the United States and our economy to a significant downside risk. Alexis. Q I just want to follow up on the question about Nike. There’s been a suggestion that perhaps Nike has been selected to be the site because it committed $50 million to Let’s Move. Can you comment on whether Nike is going to get a visit from the President related to that substantial commitment? MR. EARNEST: Well, the President’s event next week will not be focused on Let’s Move. It will actually be focused on the benefits of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the opportunity that exists for companies to benefit from expanded access to overseas markets. The President believes that that expanded access is good for American workers, and that will be part of the message that the President will deliver. But we’ll have more details on that next week. Q So there’s no connection to the generosity of Nike to the First Lady’s initiative? MR. EARNEST: Well, not that I’m aware of. I don't know if the First Lady has been out there to visit Nike in conjunction with the Let’s Move campaign or not. But, no -- what the President is going out there to talk about specifically is trade. Q Two other questions related to the library. Because the foundation will be established in the President’s name -- not unusual; that's been done in the past -- can you comment on the President’s direction to those who are going to be doing that in terms of the fundraising, how the fundraising will be conducted while he’s President, and how much disclosure he wants to have behind that fundraising for those donations? MR. EARNEST: I’d refer you to a spokesperson for the foundation who can tell you about their fundraising policies. Q But I asked you what the President’s direction to them was. MR. EARNEST: And I don't have anything to -- I don't have any private conversations to share with you at this point. Q And also related to this, the President’s legacy or what he’d like to do after his presidency, he’s talked about his enjoyment and his success in writing. Will the President -- has he or will he sign any kind of contract to write in his post-presidency while he’s President? Has he done that already? Will he do that, sign a contract for a book while he’s President? MR. EARNEST: I don't know of any contract that he has signed while President related to his writing activities. But, yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the President considers writing a book after leaving the White House. (Laughter.) I’m going to go out on a limb there. (Laughter.) Lynn. Q Thank you. Last week, President Obama did call Illinois legislative leaders after a bill passed Illinois general assembly, making it harder to legally challenge building the Obama library on city park land. Can you give me a readout on that call? And could you tell me how closely has he been monitoring these discussions over the use of city park land for the Obama complex? MR. EARNEST: I’ve heard about this telephone conversation. I have not gotten a detailed readout of it. If there are more details for us to share about the conversation, I will have somebody follow up with you. I can say that the President has been getting updates on this situation. Again, he has been in touch with those who are responsible for leading the efforts of the foundation to get the library process off the ground. But I don't think I would describe it as the President closely following the situation. He’s got a lot of other things on his plate. Q But he was aware then of the controversy over the use of park land? MR. EARNEST: I would say that the President has been regularly updated on the activities of the foundation, and obviously updated on the kinds of conversations that they're having with the cities who have applied, or who have bid on the library. Ali. Q Just to be clear, has the President made a decision to base his library in Chicago? MR. EARNEST: No. No decision on the library has been announced at this point. But when it is announced, my colleagues who are working on this particular initiative will have responsibility for doing that. And those are not colleagues who work at the White House, by the way. Q And do you have any guidance on when that decision might be made that you can share from here? MR. EARNEST: No, they’ve obviously been working on this for some time, and it does appear, according to news reports, that they are closing in on a decision and final announcement. Q On a different topic -- guns on Capitol Hill; literally actual guns. Since January, there was a report that there have been three cases of firearms left in bathrooms, twice including protective detail for Senator McConnell and House Speaker Boehner. One of those guns, Glocks, was found by a young child. So I’m just wondering if the White House has any opinion on these three incidents in the past five months. MR. EARNEST: I don't know anything about those reports other than what I’ve seen about them in public reporting. But obviously this is something that has drawn the attention of investigators on Capitol Hill, and that seems like a reasonable response. Q The Congressional Office of Professional Responsibility has recommended six days of suspension without pay for one of the officers involved in one of the incidents. Does the President think that's adequate punishment? MR. EARNEST: The President thinks that it’s the responsibility of that oversight board to make that decision. Q And just in terms of the -- this seems to be something that if it happened at the White House, if a Secret Service member left a gun in the bathroom -- maybe that's happened. MR. EARNEST: Not that I’m aware of. (Laughter.) Q Okay. But I would imagine the President would be pretty upset, especially given all of the news surrounding the Secret Service. So what would be his reaction if something like this -- it’s happened at the Capitol three times this year -- happened here at the White House? MR. EARNEST: Well, I think what the President would say is that it merits the attention of the appropriate authorities on Capitol Hill, and it sounds like that's what’s happened. Q I want to ask you about one other topic. Over the past week, given the events in Baltimore, some conservatives, including declared and likely presidential candidates, have accused the President of inflaming racial tensions. That was the word used by Senator Ted Cruz. I’m just wondering if you have any response to those kinds of comments. MR. EARNEST: I don't. Ed. Q Josh, when you were talking about the library and My Brother’s Keeper, as well, some of the reports about the foundation that will be set up in the days ahead to continue the work of My Brother’s Keeper has suggested it would be modeled in part on the Clinton Foundation, a former President devoting a lot of time to an important cause. Given the questions about the Clinton Foundation in recent days, I know you kind of deflected to library people and to the My Brother’s Keeper, but will the President put some sort of rules of the road in place in terms of what his role will be while he’s still President? Will there be transparent rules that the public can see about what kind of fundraising he will do for these important causes? MR. EARNEST: Well, Ed, as it relates to the foundation, I would encourage you to contact my colleagues and they can explain to you what policies they have put in place to guide the fundraising activities of the foundation. As it relates to the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, we’ll have more news on that once that alliance is announced next week. Q -- in general, the President will want to have some sort of transparent approach to this? I understand the specific rules, but is there -- there’s nothing you can say from here at the White House about what the President’s principles are on this issue? MR. EARNEST: Well, at this point I want the announcement to be made before I start opining on those kinds of details. Q On Baltimore -- Hillary Clinton, Dick Durbin, and other prominent Democrats in the last few days have said they feel that they overreached and Republicans on the Hill may have overreached, as well, when they supported President Clinton’s crime bill, and that that has led to these high rates of incarceration. Does President Obama agree? I know he gave a very long answer, but he didn't get into incarceration as much in the Rose Garden a couple days ago. Does he agree that the Clinton crime bill went too far? MR. EARNEST: Well, Ed, I think what the President would say is that there is good reason for us to consider some of the aspects of the criminal justice system right now that raise concerns in many communities across the country about whether the principles and precepts of our legal system are fairly applied to everyone across the country. And there are some common-sense things that, again, have sort of attracted bipartisan support around things like sentencing laws for individuals who have been convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. I think people have raised legitimate concerns about whether or not those individuals are best served, and whether our country is best served by those individuals spending decades in prison when -- for essentially not for committing a violent crime, but for being addicted to drugs. The question, I think, in the minds of a lot of people -- again, Democrats and Republicans -- is there a better way for us to address this problem. Certainly there need to be stiff punishments in place, but the question is how can we orient our criminal justice system to both be more fair, but also to produce outcomes that are in the best interest of the country. So this is something that has attracted a lot of attention recently, and the President has been gratified by the kind of discussion that he has already been able to have with Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, including some Republicans that don't often agree with the President’s approach to things. And I think that is indicative of the fact that there is a lot of common ground that can be seized here, that could succeed in making our country more fair, more just, and to generate the kinds of outcomes that are clearly in the best interests of the country, but also of individual communities all across the country. Q This is one of those issues where Hillary Clinton seems to be carving out her own approach, different from her husband. What is President Obama’s approach to the fact that Hillary Clinton is go to be carving out her own approach on a lot of these issues where she may separate herself from this President? MR. EARNEST: Well, I think, in general, what I would expect and I think what we’ve seen so far throughout her short campaign is that many of the values and priorities that she has identified in the context of her campaign are exactly the values and priorities that President Obama has championed while he’s served in the White House. That said, I’m confident that there will be situations where Secretary Clinton, who is running her own presidential campaign, will have a different perspective on an important issue and a different approach than one that President Obama has pursued. But I don't think that that will result in exposing significant differences when it comes to the basic values and priorities that seem to be fundamental to her campaign and that certainly have been animating to this President while he’s served in the White House. Q Last one on Iran. Vice President Biden gave a speech last night where he said in part, “There is nothing simple, minimal, or predictable about a war with Iran. If required, it will happen.” When Republicans like John McCain have raised the specter of war with Iran, from that podium you've suggested that they're going too far, that it’s bellicose rhetoric. Why would the Vice President raise the specter of a possible war with Iran? MR. EARNEST: I think what the Vice President was making clear is that every option is on the table. That's been true all along. And what the Vice President and the President both have invested significant time in pursuing is an opportunity for us to resolve our concerns and the international community’s concerns through diplomacy; that by -- through the effective use of negotiation and diplomacy, we can shut down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon, and we can impose a set of inspections that will verify their compliance with the agreement. And that is the approach that we hope will succeed. There’s still a lot of important work that remains to be done. And I think what the Vice President is highlighting is that every option remains on the table, and that includes military action because the President remains committed to ensuring that Iran does not obtain an nuclear weapon. Luke. Q Thank you. Loretta Lynch, her first week on the job -- how does the White House feel she’s done? And will she do more in Baltimore? MR. EARNEST: It’s difficult to think of a Cabinet member -- with the possible exception of maybe Timothy Geithner -- who has stepped into that job at a more volatile time. And I think that in her four or five days in office, she has exhibited exactly the kinds of leadership skills, the kind of character that the President envisioned to replace Eric Holder in the job. And I think that her professionalism and the respect that she has from both the civil rights community and from law enforcement have really shone through. And she’s gotten a lot of important work done here in this first week. But I don't think there’s any doubt in her mind that in the first week in this job, she has gotten a very clear understanding of the important work that lies ahead. Q Is improving relations between law enforcement and minority communities -- is that sort of going to be her issue in the short time she has as Attorney General? MR. EARNEST: Well, she’s got a long list of issues that she’s going to have to confront. But there is no doubt that this is an important one. It’s an issue that's important to the President. And Attorney General Holder filled this role admirably. And he did incredibly important work in Ferguson in working with local communities there, using the resources of the Department of Justice to try to address some of the concerns that were on display in that community. And I would anticipate that given the solid credentials and reputation that Attorney General Lynch has earned throughout her career as a federal prosecutor, that she is well positioned to effectively try to address some of the very serious concerns that have arisen in Baltimore. Q On the library, I did some research -- and when Senator Obama was running against Senator Clinton, he brought up the need for greater transparency when it comes to presidential libraries because of issues such as Marc Rich and the Clinton Foundation library back in 2000. Will he commit to being 100 percent transparent when it comes to donors to his library, do you think? MR. EARNEST: Well, Luke, I would refer you to my colleagues who are much more steeped in the details of the fundraising guidelines and practices of the Obama library. Q But just from knowing him, do you think he’d want to commit to 100 percent transparency? MR. EARNEST: Well, I know that my colleagues at the foundation can do a better job of answering that question than I can. Q And on foreign policy, the AUMF -- it seems not to be going anywhere. There’s talk of the coalition against ISIS perhaps intensifying, diversifying their strategy. John Boehner says the President is trying to restrict himself. Democrats say that the President has too much power. What is the White House doing to try and get an AUMF against ISIS through this Congress? MR. EARNEST: Well, Luke, I think we’ve done just about everything that is imaginable that an executive branch can do to try to move a law through the Congress. And the fact is, Congress is a separate but equal branch of government. And we have not seen a willingness by very many people in Congress to actually trying to responsibly fill the role -- the proper role that they have, as it relates to the foreign policy of the United States. And that's been a pretty grave disappointment to the President and to everybody that works here at the White House. The President worked diligently, even personally, with Democrats and Republicans to try to cobble together a starting point for negotiations. The White House put together our own specific proposal, we sent it up to Capitol Hill. We have sent senior members of this administration, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, all to go and testify in support of congressional action in this regard. And the call from this administration to leaders in Congress to do their jobs has for some reason fallen on deaf ears, and that’s been a disappointment to the President. Now, it has not impacted the ability of the President, as the Commander-in-Chief, or any senior members of our military from ordering the operations that are necessary to protect the national security of the United States. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the United States Congress has been essentially AWOL when it comes to that debate. And I think the American people certainly have higher expectations for their elected leaders in Washington. I can tell you the President has higher expectations for elected leaders in Congress. And we’re hopeful that they’ll actually try to get something done. And I can tell you that the Obama administration stands ready to try to work with Congress -- if there are changes they want to make to the proposal that we’ve put forward, we’re open to negotiation, we view that as a starting point for a discussion. But even that has not been answered by members of Congress who had previously talked about just how important it was for Congress to play their important role when it comes to the fight against ISIL. The last thing I’ll say is -- and this is something I’ve said before, so I’ll keep it brief -- there’s a bitter irony associated with all of this, that members of Congress in both parties have gone to pretty substantial lengths to undermine the President’s ability to conduct diplomacy and avoid a war with Iran while at the same time, Congress is not willing to do anything while the President bears the burden of leading our men and women in uniform who have performed admirably under very difficult circumstances as they try to protect the country from ISIL. And that is, as I mentioned, that’s been a grave disappointment on the part of the President and everybody who works here at the administration. Q And lastly, on this day in 2003, President Bush declared mission accomplished in Iraq. Is it fair to say that American presence and American money will be in Iraq indefinitely? MR. EARNEST: Well, that’s a -- I don’t think I would hazard a prediction like that. I think that what the President envisioned and I think what our national security team has long hoped to do is to have a solid, productive, cooperative security relationship with Iraq. And we’ve talked a lot about how -- a lot over the summer about how the inability of Iraq’s political leadership over the last several years to successfully unify that country and govern in an inclusive fashion did have a very negative impact on the security situation in that country. That’s why the President has been and other members of his team have been so gratified by the performance of Prime Minister Abadi in Iraq; that even in his short time in office that he has taken some important steps to unite that country, to govern in an inclusive way that has allowed them to confront the threat from ISIL. There’s obviously much more important work that needs to get done there. And the United States has had to make a more substantial security contribution to that effort than, frankly, we would have liked, but we’re hopeful that this contribution can be used to not just meet the -- help the Iraqis meet the urgent security situation that they face right now, but also to bolster the capacity and strength of the Iraqi central government so that they can go back to a situation where they’re taking responsibility for the security situation in their own country and that they can do so in a way that doesn’t allow extremists like ISIL to overrun their border and overrun their territory. Now, Iraq is obviously located in a very volatile region of the world. They continue to face pretty significant threats from extremist groups that are operating throughout the region, including in countries just on the other side of their border. So they certainly have a tall order when it comes to trying to meet these challenges but I would envision a future where the United States is able to work cooperatively and productively with the Iraqis as they meet those challenges. Chris. Q Josh, I want to take a crack at the presidential library. Is it likely that the President’s advancement of LGBT rights under his administration and his evolution on same-sex marriage will be fundamentally on display there? MR. EARNEST: Well, Chris, in terms of those decisions, I’d refer you to my colleagues who are working on this library project. Obviously at some point the President and people who are working directly with him will turn our attention to the library’s activities more directly, but that won’t occur while the President is still in office. So there is some planning that’s underway, but that’s taking place outside the White House. And so I direct you to those officials for a more specific answer to your question. Q But is it true that the President sees the advancement of LGBT rights under his administration as a fundamental part of his legacy? MR. EARNEST: Well, I think the President sees the advancement of LGBT rights as an example of this significant progress that’s been made while he served in the Oval Office. But during the year and a half or so that remains in his presidency, I think the President is hoping to make progress in a variety of areas, including seeking more equality for every American, including LGBT Americans. Q Just to back up on that, can you identify some other things he wants to accomplish? MR. EARNEST: I don’t have anything specific to lay out at this point, but that’s obviously something that we’ll be mindful of over the next year and a half or so. Steve. Q On Russia, the sanctions need to be renewed sometime soon and there still seems to be quite a bit of violence in Ukraine. What’s the administration going to try to do to get its European allies to do? And what sort of comment do you have on the continuing friction along that border in eastern Ukraine? MR. EARNEST: Well, Steve, unfortunately, we have seen the Russians continue to fail to live up to the obligations that they have made in the context of the Minsk agreements. These are commitments that they made not just to the Ukrainians but in the presence of both the French and German leaders as well. We’re disappointed by that, but that has been a consistent pattern over the last year or so since Russia so flagrantly violated the territorial integrity of the independent nation of Ukraine. And the United States continues to stand closely with our European partners to isolate Russia, to impose economic costs on that country for their destabilizing activity in Ukraine. There are very specific steps that are laid out in the Minsk agreement that would allow them to deescalate the situation there, that would hasten a political resolution, or at least a political discussion to try to resolve the differences of opinion inside Ukraine. And we would like to see Russia use their influence to be encouraging of that political negotiation rather than continue to take steps that escalate the situation and ultimately undermine the effort to reach a political resolution to that conflict. And as we move forward, we’re going to continue to work closely with our European partners to apply additional pressure to Russia, and continue to keep them isolated until they start to take the steps that they’ve committed to take. Q So increase in sanctions? MR. EARNEST: Nothing to announce from here at this point. The case that we have made, and I think this is borne out in the evidence, that the longer that these sanctions remain in place, the worse the impact is. And so we can further pressure Russia by keeping our sanctions regime in place; that as Russia becomes more isolated, the negative consequences of that isolation only compound. And, again, we continue to be in close touch with our European partners because what’s been critical to our ability to apply that pressure has been the unanimity of this effort. And so we’re obviously going to continue to stay in close touch and continue to closely monitor the situation in Ukraine. Go ahead, Andrei. Q Thank you, Josh. The follow-up is are you willing to use your political influence on Kyiv? To make Kyiv fulfill their commitments under the Minsk agreements? Because they are not doing it. MR. EARNEST: Andrei, what we have seen is we’ve seen a clear willingness on the part of the Ukrainian government to abide by the commitments that they have made. And there have been no shortage of written read-outs that you have received from the White House Press Office documenting telephone calls, principally between the Vice President and senior members in the Ukrainian government but occasionally from the President to senior members of the Ukrainian government, and what they have made clear in those conversations is that the United States and our European allies stand squarely behind the efforts of the Ukrainian government to withstand the destabilizing impact that they’re seeing from the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. We continue to see Russia provide weapons and materiel, and even personnel, to aid the violence of those separatists. And that’s put enormous pressure on the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian government, and on the Ukrainian economy. And we have provided significant economic assistance to the people of Ukraine. The United States has provided some training and other forms of support to the Ukrainian military as they’ve confronted the security threat and those efforts are going to continue. Q My real question was about history, though. (Laughter.) This year marks the 75th anniversary of victory in World War II. My question is, does the President intend to personally reach out to American veterans of that war? And generally, how does the White House view the significance of that victory? When I talk to my American friends, I often hear that, you Russians are obsessed with that particular war, with that victory, you should look forward, don’t look back. I don’t agree with that -- 27 million people that the Russians lost in that war. It’s 27 million people. They basically won the war. Americans won the war, too. And, frankly, when I look back now, you wage wars almost continuously but there are few, few victories that I can remember that you can celebrate. So, basically, will the President -- MR. EARNEST: Obviously, Andrei, I don’t have a -- you’re not going to find me agreeing with your version of history. (Laughter.) But what I can tell you is that there is a very powerful monument just a stone’s throw away from here dedicated to the Americans who bravely served this country and who bravely served the interests of the world both in Europe and in Asia to bring World War II to an end, and to bring freedom to so many people across the country who had -- or across the world, who had that freedom threatened. And that is a testament to the commitment of the citizens of this country to those kinds of principles. And the United States has demonstrated a willingness to fight for those principles. And there have been brave men and women who have served our country in the Armed Forces, who have fought and died for those principles. And that is something that the President is enormously proud of, and he’s enormously grateful for their sacrifice. Q But specifically, will the President be doing anything to mark the VE Day in May or the overall -- the victory in the Pacific theater later in the year? MR. EARNEST: I don’t have any scheduling announcements to announce at this point, but we’ll keep you posted on that. Bill. Q This will take you right to the week ahead. When is the President going to Baltimore? MR. EARNEST: I do have a week -- (laughter) -- I do have a week ahead. Baltimore does not appear on the week ahead this week, but we’ll keep you posted. Q Will he have anything more to say after he’s had a chance to see the charges? MR. EARNEST: I don’t anticipate that he’ll have more to say today. But as you already know, next week the President is traveling to New York where he’ll spend some time talking about his My Brother’s Keeper initiative. And I would not be surprised if in the context of those remarks the President says something relevant to the ongoing situation in Baltimore. Mark. Q Josh, on the library, can you at least confirm that the President has made a decision on the venue for the library? MR. EARNEST: I’m not able to do that. I haven't spoken to him about it. Q Has it been a difficult decision for it? MR. EARNEST: Well, I know that the President has had a number of conversations with his friends and trusted advisors who are working on the efforts of the foundation to get the library up and running. But I’m not aware of the substance of those conversations. I think it’s something that the President obviously takes seriously. That’s why he’s asked people that he trusts to be in charge of that effort, and that’s why he’s gotten regular updates. But I don’t know whether there have been a lot of people agonizing over this decision or not. Q On another issue -- has the White House been satisfied with the answers given this week at a congressional hearing by NORAD, the FAA, the Secret Service, on the gyrocopter that flew across Washington a few weeks ago? MR. EARNEST: I haven't read the transcript from that hearing. I know that there has been an effort by our security officials to cooperate with congressional oversight and to answer as many questions as possible. But ultimately that’s the responsibility of Congress to get those answers, and I know that they’ve been hard at work doing that. And I don’t know if there are additional hearings on that planned or not. Q Is anyone at the White House looking into it? Lisa Monaco or -- MR. EARNEST: I’m not aware of any specific review or investigation that’s underway on this matter. Toluse. Q Thanks, Josh. On trade -- yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner said that the White House and the President needs to step up its game in terms of garnering support among Democrats. And I was hoping you could -- MR. EARNEST: I sort of laughed about that yesterday. Q Well, I also wanted you to talk about that specifically, because you have in the past criticized John Boehner for not being able to get control of his caucus, and now it seems like the tables have turned a little bit. Does it have anything to do with -- MR. EARNEST: Well -- (laughter) -- I don’t think that’s the way I would describe it. Obviously, Speaker Boehner led a partisan campaign last fall to retake -- or to preserve the majority in the House. And I think he was interested in trying to help his Republican colleagues in the Senate and try to take over the majority in the Republican Senate. And they did so because they believed that would improve their chances of advancing their agenda. One of the top things on the agenda -- again, according to statements that they made immediately after the election -- was trying to move trade legislation. And so it’s more than a little ironic that less than four months after retaking the majority in the Senate, and preserving the majority and expanding the majority in the House, that you have Republican leaders in Congress saying they need the President’s help. So the good news in this scenario is that there does seem to be some bipartisan common ground in terms of what that trade legislation looks like. There has been a proposal that’s gone through the Senate Finance Committee that’s attracted the support of both the majority of Republicans, and a majority of Democrats on that committee were gratified by that. There’s a similar proposal that’s moving through the House that got less support from Democrats. And we’re going to continue -- the President is going to continue to invest his time and attention to building a bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress to advance trade legislation. And he’s going to do that because he believes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership would clearly be in the best interest of middle-class families all across the United States of America. Q And in terms of the strategy, he has spent a lot of time over the last few weeks making the case on the merits of this deal. Is there something more that he should be doing in terms of the politics, in terms of sort of making sure that Democrats feel safe about supporting this? MR. EARNEST: Well, I’ll say that if there are people that have ideas, we’re open to them. But as far as I can tell, the President has had private meetings with members of Congress. He’s talked this over with Democratic and Republican leaders. He’s had the opportunity to speak publicly on this issue on a number of occasions. He’s conducted one-on-one interviews. Next week, the President will travel to Oregon to make the case out in Oregon about the benefits of this bill. So I think it’s clear that the President has invested significant time and attention to try to advance bipartisan trade legislation. The President is committed to this, and he’s going to continue to work on it. We’re hopeful that those gentlemen that are responsible for the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will use their influence in Congress and those majorities to work with us to advance this bill. Q And just one other question. I wanted to see if you had a reaction to Democrats filing the KOCH bill. It’s called the “Keeping Our Campaigns Honest” bill. It’s a bill that would require the FCC to force folks who are putting ads on the air to disclose their donors. Is that something the White House would support? MR. EARNEST: I’m not familiar with the details of that cleverly named bill, but we’ll see if we can collect some more information about it and maybe get a reaction to you. Tamara. Q You talk a lot about the President making the case; he’s been making the case on trade a lot. Is he willing to get beyond making the case, and sort of dig in and say, “All right, Democrats, what’s it going to take -- let’s change this thing slightly”? Or is he saying, “Here’s the product, I think it’s great; I’m going to keep talking to you until you believe it’s great too”? MR. EARNEST: Well, we still are in that phase of this process where I think Democrats and Republicans are both taking a look at the bill that’s -- I guess the bills that are making their way through the House and the Senate. And we continue to be open to suggestions and input from people on both sides of the aisle about ways that that legislation that could -- ways that legislation could be improved. And that, ultimately, will be the responsibility of the committee chairs who are shepherding those bills on the floor. But obviously the President believes that the bills, as they exist now, merit the support of Democrats in the Congress. And the simple reason is this is the most progressive trade promotion authority bill that the Congress has ever tried to pass. It includes, written into it, provisions that will ensure that we’re enforcing labor protections, that’s we’re enforcing environmental protections. It includes, for the first time, a mention of the importance of human rights. And if necessary, Democrats could even view this as holding the President accountable for making sure that these progressive priorities are included in the trade bill -- or in the final trade agreement when it’s reached. So again, this is something that each member of Congress will have to consider on their own, but the President continues to believe that there is a very powerful case for Democrats to make about how advancing this legislation, passing this legislation, and ultimately trying to reach a Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement is consistent with this legislation that would be clearly in the best interest and would actually advance the interests of middle-class families all across the country. Q In these meetings that he has had with Democrats, have they suggested changes, improvements? And has he been receptive? I mean, he could take it to the committee chairs and say, “Hey, you know, I could bring you 20 more Democrats if we could just work on this.” MR. EARNEST: Well, I’m not aware of any provision like that that’s been floated. But I think it’s fair to say that those kinds of discussions have already taken place over the last several months. I think that’s the only reason that you could explain that you get to a place where you have a majority of Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee supporting the bill, that it reflects a genuine, bipartisan compromise. And the President was heartened by that. Again, I don’t think we’re going to see that same kind of ratio when it reaches the floor of the United States Senate, but I think it is an indication that there is ample reason for Democrats to be supportive of this legislation. John, I’ll give you the last one and we’ll do the week ahead. Q I wanted to know if you could give an update regarding that seized Maersk cargo ship earlier in the week. You admitted to not knowing all the facts and circumstances regarding that, including whether the crew members onboard are considered by the U.S. as hostages. Can you update us a little bit on that? MR. EARNEST: John, this is a situation that the United States continues to closely monitor. This is a *U.S. Marshall Islands-flagged vessel. According to the crew, there are no U.S. personnel, U.S. citizens, onboard the ship. We haven’t seen any evidence that indicate -- that contradict that statement. But we obviously have a vested interest in the free flow of commerce in this region of the world, and in this situation, you see at least one example of commerce that’s been interrupted. So this is something that we’re watching carefully and we’ll continue to do so in the days ahead. Q That’s not really an update. I mean, everything you just said are things that you said earlier in the week. I mean, for instance, do you not have an answer as to whether you consider those crew members hostages? MR. EARNEST: Well, again, for the latest status of the individuals who are on the ship, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense. They’re obviously the ones who are tracking this the most closely. Q As far as the Iranians go -- and this question was asked just a little bit earlier in the briefing in a different way -- the Iranians, over the course of just the past few months, they’ve detained and seized this cargo ship, they’ve detained and jailed Americans, they’ve armed Houthi rebels. Is there no red line for them? Can they essentially do whatever they wish to do without there being any ramifications as it relates to the nuclear talks with Iran? Do they have a free hand? MR. EARNEST: Well, John, Julie and I had a conversation like this earlier in the briefing -- it seems like a long time ago now. (Laughter.) I guess it was a long time ago now. (Laughter.) So I don’t think I would say anything different than what I said to her earlier, that we have a long list of concerns with Iranian behavior and we’re under no illusions that the successful resolution of the ongoing talks that would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon would resolve all those concerns. And that’s why, even if we are able to reach a nuclear agreement that shuts down every pathway that Iran has to a nuclear weapon, that we’re going to continue to have sanctions in place that are related to their flagrant violation of human rights. We’re going to continue to have sanctions in place that relate to their destabilizing activities in the region, including proliferation of some weapons. And we’re going to continue to express strong concerns about the threats that they direct toward our closest ally in the region, Israel. And the President is going to convene a meeting here in a couple of weeks with the GCC countries in the Middle East who are concerned about Iran’s destabilizing activities in that region of the world. And that will be an opportunity for the President to make clear that we’re going to continue to be committed to the close security relationship that we have with so many of those countries, and that will continue to be true, even if we are able to successfully resolve the international community’s concerns with their nuclear program. And, in fact, we’ll make the case to them again that the reason that we’re trying to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon through diplomacy is because we don’t believe that’s just in the best national security interest of the United States; it’s also in the best national security interests of our allies and partners in the Middle East as well. Q Perhaps I can segue you along to the week ahead. The President is traveling to his 50th state as President. Give me a little bit of the President’s thoughts about traveling to South Dakota. MR. EARNEST: Why don’t I do the week ahead and then I’ll do that at the end, because it comes at the end of next week. On Monday, the President will travel to New York City to deliver remarks at an event at Lehman College, launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new nonprofit organization. And as I mentioned, we’ll have some more details about that organization next week. The other interesting thing the President is going to do when he is in New York is he is going to tape an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” So I know the President is looking forward to going back to the Ed Sullivan Theater for that. While in New York, at the end of the day, the President will participate in a couple of DNC events. On Tuesday, the President will host a Cinco de Mayo reception at the White House. On Wednesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House. On Thursday, the President will welcome the United States Air Force Academy football team to the White House to present them with the 2014 Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy. In the afternoon, the President will travel to Portland, Oregon -- or the Portland, Oregon area, where he’ll attend a DNC event. And then the President will remain overnight in Oregon. On Friday morning, the President will attend an event at Nike headquarters to discuss how workers will benefit from progressive, high-standards trade agreements that would open up new markets and support high-quality jobs, both for Oregon small businesses and large companies like Nike. The President will also make the case that strong bipartisan trade promotion authority legislation introduced this month by Oregon’s own Senator Ron Wyden, and Senator Orrin Hatch, is an important step to ensure our trade policy works for the middle class through strong enforcement provisions, transparency, and the requirement that our trade agreements include high standards to bring greater opportunity to American businesses. Afterward, the President will travel to Watertown, South Dakota, to deliver the commencement address for the graduating class at Lake Area Technical Institute. Lake Area Technical Institute is one of the top community colleges in the nation and is recognized for rigorously preparing its students with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. With a two-year graduation rate more than twice the national average, Lake Area Technical Institute focuses on providing its graduates with smooth pathways to high-skilled careers with private-sector businesses. So we’ll have more details about next week’s trip next week. But South Dakota, as you point out, John, is the 50th state that the President will visit as President of the United States. The President did have the opportunity to visit a lot of the country when he participated in his rather historic presidential campaign back in 2008. And I think throughout his travels, the President has continued to be energized and invigorated by the spirit of the American people and to visit with Americans who are doing their best for their families and for their community and for the country is something that the President finds genuinely inspiring. And I know that he’ll look forward to having that opportunity in both Oregon and South Dakota at the end of next week. Thanks, everybody. Have a great weekend. Q Josh, is hitting number 50 why he chose to go to Lake Area Technical College? MR. EARNEST: No, that statistic I cited about their high graduation rate is principally the reason the President is going to give the commencement address there. Q So it’s coincidental but it’s also the 50th state of his presidency. MR. EARNEST: Well, no, the President wanted to visit all 50 states while he was President, too. Thanks, guys. END 2:37 P.M. EDT