Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz en route Charleston, SC, 6/26/2015
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Charleston, South Carolina
*Please see below for a correction to the transcript, marked with an asterisk.
12:17 P.M. EDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome aboard Air Force One en route to Charleston, where the President will deliver his eulogy at the service later this afternoon. I don't have any announcements at the top, so I'm happy to move right to your questions.
Q Can you give us a sense of how the President found out about the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage today, his reaction, and the mood in the White House?
MR. SCHULTZ: I can, Julie. I can tell you that as soon as the ruling was out, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett phoned the President. He was in the residence, working on the eulogy for this afternoon, actually -- working on his remarks. The President subsequently was in the Oval Office and got a full debrief by Neil Eggleston and and was joined by the Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.
Q And his reaction?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think you heard from the President his reaction in the Rose Garden earlier. I think he’s very pleased. I think the ruling is consistent with his beliefs – *inequality in equality -- confirming, as he said earlier, that love is love.
Q Can you put this in a broader political context for us? We saw some Republican presidential candidates this morning put out statements after the Supreme Court ruling, basically saying we kind of want to move on from this issue, talking about religious freedom stuff, but not sort of pushing the same kind of constitutional amendment we've seen in the past. Do you feel like this moment today is a big pivot point in American politics? Do you think there’s still a big split between the parties when it comes to LGBT rights?
MR. SCHULTZ: I'm going to leave the political analysis to others. I do think, as the President said, this was a consequential ruling, one that affirms equality, one that guarantees the right to marriage no matter who you love, and one that's consistent with not only the President’s public policy positions but one that’s consistent with the President’s values.
Q Can you talk about the terror attacks? I know the President has been briefed, but can you give us some detail on what the White House knows so far and if there’s any indication that those events around the world are connected?
MR. SCHULTZ: Angela, I can tell you the President was briefed early this morning on this and continues to receive updates as the situation warrants. I can also tell you that our national security staff and our intelligence community professionals are in touch with their counterparts in the respective countries and continue to offer help and assistance to those in those countries.
But obviously these are unfolding circumstances in real time with the attacks happening hours ago. So I don't have an intelligence assessment to provide at this time.
Q Is there any sense that the attack in France was because the company that ran that factory was based in the United States?
MR. SCHULTZ: Again, I don't have specific details from our intelligence community, but I can tell you that our law enforcement officials continue to be in touch with our counterparts in France. So as soon as there’s any assessment along those lines I'm sure we'll get it to you.
Q Is there any higher-level security alert that you're considering or directive that you guys plan to put out?
MR. SCHULTZ: Carol, I would refer you to the Department of Homeland Security, which constantly is monitoring our security protocol back here in the United States. But I haven't seen anything -- any changes announced on the heels of these attacks.
Q Has the President had a chance to reach out to his counterparts in any of these countries -- President Hollande, for instance?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, I don't have any foreign leader calls to read out to you yet today. But as you know, the President has actually met recently -- or spoken recently with President Hollande, as well as the leaders of Kuwait and Tunisia in recent weeks.
Q I'm asking about today, if he has --
MR. SCHULTZ: I understand, and I don't have any foreign leader calls to read out to you right now.
Q Can you talk a little bit about the President’s day in Charleston, what his message is going to be in the speech, and then can you tell us if he will meet with the families after?
MR. SCHULTZ: Julie, I don't have a significant amount of preview for you of the President’s remarks. The good news is he delivers those remarks in a few hours so you all will be able to listen for yourselves. I do expect the focal point of the President’s remarks to be celebrating the life of Reverend Pinckney, his contributions to the community down there. I believe it's hard to have an extensive conversation about the tragic shooting in South Carolina without mentioning some of the social issues that we've been talking about over the past week, but, again, I expect the focal point of the eulogy to be about his life.
Q -- list of lawmakers who are on the plane?
MR. SCHULTZ: I do. Speaker Boehner is joining us on Air Force One this afternoon, as well as Congressmen Scalise, Butterfield, Van Hollen, Becerra, Congressman Lewis, Congressman Cummings, and Congressman Price.
Q Can you -- for the people back home?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. Speaker Boehner, Congressman Scalese, Congressman Butterfield, Congressman Van Hollen, Congressman Becerra, Congressman Lewis, Congressman Cummings, Congressman Price.
I’ll also tell you that there’s a separate aircraft bringing many more congressmen down with us. We'll make sure you get that full list.
Q What about Cabinet Secretaries?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't know of any Cabinet Secretaries on this flight.
Julie also asked if the President is going to be meeting with families on the ground in Charleston. I can confirm that's going to happen and that will happen after today’s service.
Q Which families?
MR. SCHULTZ: I believe he’s going to meet with the families of those who were tragically lost last week and some of the surviving families.
Q This is the Speaker’s first Air Force One trip with the President, correct?
MR. SCHULTZ: I'm not sure. I'd have to fact-check that for you.
Q Can you get back --
MR. SCHULTZ: I'll see what I can do.
Q -- bring the Speaker back?
MR. SCHULTZ: I will see if he’s interested.
Q Can I ask you a broader question on -- there’s a lot of chatter out there that this is a great day for the President, he’s had a lot of victories. He had trade, he had health care. And people are crediting him with gay marriage. I guess one question is, do you feel like he deserves credit for the gay marriage decision? What role does he think he had to play in that? The other two are kind of obvious that he had a role in. And my question to that is, do you guys feel like this has been a very successful week? And if so, how do you feel about that going forward when there aren't that many at least domestic policy big-ticket items left for you in the next 18 months?
MR. SCHULTZ: Carol, I do think it's been a significant morning, it's been a significant couple of days, and it's certainly been a significant month for not only the President and the administration, but for the country. And if you take a moment to step back, I think the developments we've all experienced over the past few days speak to not only the modern American presidency, but also speak to the reason this President ran for office.
If you go back to 2007, you will remind yourselves that principles and values of equality, of expanding health care, making that more affordable, of making sure that health care is a right and not a privilege, making sure that the middle class has all the economic opportunities that we can build for them -- those are the reasons the President ran for office. Those continue to be the motivating factors for this President moving forward.
Q Can you speak to the modern American presidency? What do you mean by that?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think I just meant given everything that's been happening this week -- we're on a plane right now down to Charleston where the President is going to deliver a eulogy on the heels of a terrible mass shooting, and the conversation that has stemmed from that both at a national level, also in South Carolina and around the country.
Q -- the first mass shooting where the President knew one of the victims. Is he more affected by this than others? I mean, he was greatly affected by the Newtown shooting as well, but this one he really knew someone personally.
MR. SCHULTZ: Pam, I am going to defer to the President. I think you’ll hear the President talk about his relationship with the Reverend. I don’t want to overstate that relationship. They met back in 2007. The Reverend was a early supporter of the President’s campaign for the White House. He and the First Lady met the Reverend back in South Carolina in the early stages of the campaign. But I’m going to leave it to the President to discuss what that means to him.
Q Can we go back to gay rights real quick, LGBT rights? Obviously, we saw a big move today by the Supreme Court, huge, huge advance for people who support LGBT rights expansion. There is still some stuff on the table that advocates want to see done -- principally, this open service for transgender members of the military. Is the President prepared to just say he’s going to do that by the end of his time in office at this point?
MR. SCHULTZ: Evan, I don’t have any policy pronouncements for you today. I will say that the President’s overarching value and guiding principle on this is that any man or woman who wants to serve in our military ought to be able to do so.
Q I have one more about today. Will the President have a chance to see or visit the church where the tragedy took place?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, I don’t believe that’s on the schedule for today, but if that changes we’ll let you know.
Q Can you characterize the tone or tenor of the President’s phone call with Vladimir Putin yesterday?
MR. SCHULTZ: The President’s phone call with whom?
Q Vladimir Putin.
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have much to add to yesterday’s readout on that. As you saw, they discussed a variety of pressing issues, including new developments in Syria, including the President’s insistence that Russia start to abide by the Minsk agreements. But I don’t have anything to add.
MR. SCHULTZ: Is that it?
Q I have one other question. Is it fair to say that you guys have slowed down your outreach to the Hill on Iran talks while you were trying to push through trade, and that that’s ramping back up?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t think so, Carol. Josh did a little bit of this yesterday, but our outreach to Congress on the Iran deal remains robust and aggressive. I know that there are conversations that happen between members and both our national security staff here -- back at the White House, but also with folks at the State Department and also at the Department of Energy. I’m fairly confident in telling you that anyone -- any member of Congress who would like -- who has questions or wants a phone call returned will get one.
Q Week ahead?
MR. SCHULTZ: Oh, week ahead, yes.
On Monday, the President will host a working dinner with President Rousseff of Brazil at the White House. On Tuesday, the President will host a bilateral meeting with President Rousseff of Brazil at the White House. That meeting will be followed by a joint press conference.
On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, the President will attend meetings at the White House. And on Saturday, the President and First Lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, a concert, and a view of the fireworks on the South Lawn.
Q All right, thank you.
MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you.
12:30 P.M. EDT