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The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 8/24/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:50 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s nice to see so many relaxed, tanned faces in the room today.  I know the President certainly enjoyed the opportunity over the last couple of weeks to spend a lot of time with his family, and I hope all of you took advantage of the opportunity to do the same -- at least for a portion of that time.

Let me do a couple of comments at the top and then we’ll go to your questions.  What I just wanted to review prior to taking your questions is the progress that the administration has made in terms of building support for the Iran deal.  And since I was last standing at this podium two weeks ago, we have seen 16 members of the United States Senate come out and indicate their position on the Iran deal.  Fifteen of those sixteen announced their support and endorsement for the Iran deal, including in the last 24 hours the Democratic Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, and just this morning, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.  That’s an indication that we continue to build some important momentum inside the United States Senate in support of the agreement.

Last week, many of you may have seen an op-ed from Brent Scowcroft, who was the National Security Advisor to President George H.W. Bush, lending his full-throated support to this agreement.  You’ve heard me refer in the past to the idea that this debate that we’re having about the current Iran deal breaks down along the similar fault lines that we saw around the debate leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.  And you’ll recall, those of you who covered that story closely, that Mr. Scowcroft made clear the concerns that he had about the invasion at that time.  And, again, he is somebody who is indicating his strong support for the agreement. 

A couple of weeks ago we saw a letter from 29 different engineers and scientists here in the United States who indicated that the inspections regime that would be imposed on Iran to verify their compliance with the agreement actually could be a model, or should be a model, for the way that the IAEA conducts inspections of other countries’ nuclear programs.  We saw a letter that was signed by a wide variety of retired military leaders and flag officers indicating that they believed that there was no better option for preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon than this diplomatic agreement.

We also saw a letter that was signed by 26 different Jewish leaders all across the country indicating that they believe that this option was what they described as the “best available one” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  We also saw a letter from that was signed by more than 300 rabbis from across the country indicating their commitment to lobby the United States Congress and encourage them to come out in support of the agreement.

We also saw an interview at the end of last week from former Mossad Chief, Efraim Halevy, who indicated in an interview with PBS that he believed that this was a very effective way for the international community to come together and take action to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  

And finally, I wanted to call to your attention the comments of President Bush’s Secretary, Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who raised -- obviously, the Department of the Treasury is responsible for implementing the sanctions that have been so effective in compelling Iran to come to the negotiating table and enter into constructive talks with the international community.  And the reason I raise this quote is that many of the critics of the agreement have suggested that what Congress should do is actually kill the deal, to reject it in the United States Congress, and go back to the negotiating table with Iran and negotiate a better deal.

Secretary Paulson had a rather dim view of that strategy.  He said, and I quote, “It’s somewhere in between naïve and unrealistic to assume that after we’ve, the United States of America, have negotiated something like this with the five other parties, and with the whole world community watching, that we could back away from that and that the others would go with us, or that even our allies would go with us.”  So Secretary Paulson -- served in the previous administration -- knows quite a bit about the way that sanctions are applied, and certainly raises significant questions about the strategy that’s advocated by critics of the Iran deal.  

So we’ve all gotten an opportunity to take at least a little bit of time away over the last couple of weeks, but the news as it relates to the Iran deal has continued and I just wanted to recap that at this point.  So if any of you would like to take a look at some of the letters that are referred to, we have those at the ready and can send those to you.

So with all that, Julie, thank you for accommodating me.  And now we can take your questions.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just quickly, on Iran actually -- administration officials, before the President’s vacation, had been fairly open about the fact that they expected he would have to veto a resolution of disapproval, and you were mostly fighting to get votes to be able to sustain the veto.  Do you think there’s a chance now that he will not actually have to use his veto power?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, our view has been that we want to engage as many members of Congress as we can to advocate for support of the agreement.  And this started from the night before the agreement itself was even announced, when the President and other senior members of this administration reached out to members of Congress to try to give them a heads-up about the imminent deal and to give them some of the outlines of the agreement that was going to be announced the next morning.

And this I think characterizes the kind of intensive communication that’s occurred between senior administration officials and members of Congress.  And our goal all along has been to build as much support in Congress as we possibly can.  And what we have been focused on is building the kind of support that we need in both the House and the Senate to sustain a presidential veto.

Q    So you still expect he would have to veto a resolution of disapproval?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, we’ll have to see what Congress chooses to do.  But we certainly are going to build as much support as we possibly can for this agreement in both the House and the Senate.

Q    Okay.  It’s a volatile day in the markets and I’m wondering what the level of concern the administration has about the slowdown in China and the potential ripple effects in the global economy and certainly in the U.S. economy.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as it relates to -- we’ve seen a lot of volatility in the China stock markets over the last several weeks, and China -- I’m sorry, the Treasury Department has been closely monitoring global markets, including those financial markets in China.  

You’ve also seen readouts that have been issued by the Treasury Department of conversations that Secretary Lew has had with senior Chinese officials in the last couple of weeks.  Most of those conversations, however, have focused on the recent shift in the Chinese exchange rate regime and its economic reform agenda.  And this is consistent with the case that we have long made to China that they should continue to pursue financial reform to increase exchange rate flexibility and to move rapidly toward a more market-determined exchange rate system.  And so that is a case that we have continued to impress upon the Chinese as being a priority of the United States.

Q    What would you say to Americans who are watching this volatility -- the market is going up and down -- about how what’s happening in China could affect the U.S. economy?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there’s no doubt that the global economy is more interconnected than it’s ever been.  And there are a variety of reasons for that; technology is not the least of them.  

But what I would encourage people to evaluate is the ongoing strength and resilience of the U.S. economy.  U.S. businesses over the last 65 consecutive months have added 13 million jobs -- that’s the longest sustained private-sector job growth streak in American history.  The unemployment rate here in the United States is at 5.3 percent, which is the lowest level in seven years.  

Looking at economic growth more broadly, if you take a look at the most stable components of growth, a combination of personal consumption and fixed investment, we’ve actually seen that growth rate -- we’ve seen that those two measures of economic growth have increased 3.2 percent over the last year.  And that’s actually faster than the growth of the overall economy, which is an indication of how durable the U.S. economy continues to be, even as we see some increased volatility overseas.  

However, the administration, certainly the President, is very mindful of how this would be a particularly bad time for a self-inflicted wound.  And it’s why we continue to make the case to Congress that they need to take care of business -- and we talked about this a little bit earlier this summer -- that one of Congress’s most important responsibilities is to pass a budget for the federal government.  And it’s our view that Congress should pass a budget on time that reverses the sequester and avoids a shutdown.  

We certainly would like to see Congress take the long-overdue step of reauthorizing the Ex-Im Bank.  And we certainly believe, as we have for quite some time, that a longer-term increased investment in transportation infrastructure would be beneficial for the economy, not just in the short term in terms of creating jobs and stimulating economic growth, but actually laying a foundation for the long-term strength of the U.S. economy.  

So there certainly is -- while we continue to be confident about the longer-term trends when it comes to the U.S. economy, we would like to see Congress take the kind of common-sense steps that would build on that momentum that the U.S. economy continues to enjoy.


Q    Josh, following up on that, China’s President Xi is coming to the White House in September.  Does this topic of the Chinese economy and weakness there automatically become the top agenda item for that summit, for that meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, the economic relationship between the United States and China has long been a priority for our two countries.  That’s certainly been true while President Obama has been in office; I think previous U.S. presidents would say the same thing.  That relationship has only become more important as we have seen China’s economy grow.  

And the importance of that relationship manifests itself in a variety of ways.  It includes intensive discussions that we have with the Chinese about protecting intellectual property rights.  Certainly there will be continued discussion about China’s efforts to move towards a more market-determined exchange rate for their currency.  It also raises questions about -- or raises some questions about the concerns that we’ve expressed in the past about China’s behavior in cyberspace, and that there are examples of cyber-espionage that have had significant economic consequences for our relationship.

And so these are all the kinds of things that have remained high on the agenda whenever President Obama sits -- has sat down with his Chinese counterpart.  And I’m confident that that will be true when President Obama has the opportunity to welcome President Xi to the White House next month.

Q    Has he been briefed on the market volatility?  And is he having discussions either now with his counterparts in China or with other officials?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any -- the President has not made any calls to Chinese officials about this, but the President as a matter of course is updated on developments in the economy, and he has been even while he’s been on vacation.

Q    Does the White House expect that this volatility will have any effect on the Fed’s decision about interest rates this fall?

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t want to speculate on a decision that ultimately is the responsibility of the independent Federal Reserve.  But I’m sure the Federal Reserve would tell you that they obviously are paying close attention to this volatility and broader economic movements.  But any sorts of conclusions they reach will be theirs and I wouldn’t speculate on them.

Q    One last topic.  Do you have a reaction to the North Korea-South Korea agreement today to reduce tensions on the peninsula?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, I was -- I heard that they had resolved, or at least completed their talks shortly before I walked out here, and it’s pending a longer-term -- or a more formal announcement from the two sides in terms of what they’ve agreed upon.  So we’ll withhold any reaction until they’ve had an opportunity to make their announcement and then we can follow up with you on that.


Q    Josh, talking about China, there are a lot of market analysts who think that Chinese estimates of its economic growth -- which have fallen from about 10 percent down to about 7 percent now -- the World Bank and IMF now say that China is going to slow to about 4 percent over the next couple of years.  Despite that, there are a lot of analysts who say that the Chinese figures of growth can’t be trusted, they’re cooking the books and such.  Is that a view that the administration in any way -- how trustworthy do you think these Chinese current figures are?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, my colleagues at the Treasury Department can probably give you a more sophisticated assessment of that.  This is certainly an issue that’s been raised publicly in a variety of ways.  Obviously there are significant financial consequences for how reliable the data that is issued by the Chinese government actually turns out to be.

One of the things -- one of the cases that we have made to the Chinese government is that a more transparent economy is one that will benefit not just the Chinese economy but the global economy.  And we certainly hear from business leaders in the United States that are interested in doing business in China that a more transparent business environment would make them more likely to do business there.  We obviously welcome and want to advocate for U.S. businesses that are looking to go overseas because ultimately that creates a good economy opportunity here in the United States. 

But ultimately, these are the kinds of decisions that Chinese officials have to make.  And the message they hear consistently from the Obama administration is one that is focused -- a lot of which is focused on the need for China to continue to pursue financial reform, and to move rapidly toward a more market-determined exchange rate system.  But certainly improving transparency into their economy is something that we believe would be good for the global economy and also good for the economy in China as well.

Q    Just a quick follow-up to that.  There have been reports that China internally -- talking about transparency -- they have an internal force, army -- whatever you want to call it -- of about 2 million government workers who do nothing but monitor their own people’s online activity; as you know, social media is hard to access and such.  Does that tell you or the administration that China is a confident government, when they monitor their own people to that degree?  Is it a confident government or a fearful one that would do something like that?  What’s the administration view?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Paul, we’ve long made the case that human rights is at the top of the agenda whenever the President is meeting with his Chinese counterpart.  And in a variety of settings, including when the President himself traveled to China, raised significant concerns about the Chinese government’s respect for the basic universal human rights of its people, including access to information and freedom of expression.  And that is a concern that President Obama will continue to raise with his counterpart. 


Q    Josh, can you draw any conclusions from what’s going on in China and the turbulence in the markets about the possibility that the U.S. government could encounter or run into a recession any time in the next year or so?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not in the business of prognosticating either on elections or on the economy.  But I think -- taking a look at some of these longer-term trends in the U.S. economy are an indication of the strength of the U.S. economy right now.  And whether that’s -- whether you evaluate job creation or the unemployment rate, or even just broader measures of economic growth, people can feel confident.

At the same time, there’s more that Congress can and should do to build on some of this momentum that the U.S. economy has built up and on the resilience that this economy has demonstrated.  And we’re hopeful that when Congress returns from their recess that they will be focused on passing a budget on time that reverses the sequester; that they’ll reauthorize the Ex-Im Bank in a timely fashion -- it’s already a couple months overdue -- and that we can hopefully get Congress to actually, finally take action on an increasing long-term investment in infrastructure.


Q    So, Josh, would you say the fundamentals of the economy are strong?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that certainly is a phrase that has been used by others in different settings.  I think that there is no doubt that the U.S. economy is far stronger now than it was in 2008.  And there are a variety of ways to measure that.

One way that I would measure that is to take a look at the impact of Wall Street reform legislation; that now, we know that U.S. banks have reduced their leverage and have added more than $600 billion in capital since 2009, some of that as related to new requirements under Wall Street reform.  That means that banks are less reliant on unstable, short-term funding, and that they’re better able to withstand short-term volatility within the financial markets.

One of the things that has been a part of Wall Street reform are annual stress tests, and that’s another reason that we can have more confidence in the strength and resilience of the U.S. economy.

Q    So picking up on your answer to Jon’s question, you mentioned what Congress can and what they might not do.  Is there a danger that if Congress fails to act on a budget, on the debt ceiling -- which is coming up as well -- on infrastructure, that Congress’s action or inaction on those fronts could put us into a recession?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there’s no doubt that Congress failing to act in a responsible way to pass a budget and reverse sequester is going to have negative consequences for the U.S. economy.  And particularly at this time when we’re seeing so much volatility in economies all around the globe, it seems like a bad time for an unforced error.

Now, I would acknowledge that we’ve seen a lot of unforced errors from Congress over the last several years.  And in spite of those unforced errors, we have been able to build up some momentum behind the economy.  I think what we would like to see is Congress take the kind of action that would actually build on that momentum as opposed to take steps -- or not take steps, as the case may be -- to undermine that momentum.

Q    Okay.  And then just a couple quick questions on the other topic that you like.  So a quick readout from the President’s lunch with Vice President Biden?

MR. EARNEST:  When I walked out it was still ongoing.

Q    Still ongoing?  Did you get a -- 

MR. EARNEST:  I have not gotten an early readout of their lunch.

Q    So we had the development over the weekend that the Vice President came back and met with Elizabeth Warren.  How would the President deal with this if Biden actually decides to run?  Here you have his current Vice President against his former Secretary of State.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there’s not an insignificant “if” in that question.  And I think that’s what everybody is pretty interested to find out, is what decision the Vice President is going to make.

The President has indicated his view that the decision that he made I guess seven years ago now to add Joe Biden to the ticket as his running mate was the smartest decision that he had ever made in politics.  And I think that should give you some sense of the President’s view of Vice President Biden’s aptitude for the top job.

Q    So I assume that means the President would support Vice President Biden if he were to run?  I mean, this is obviously a better decision than the Secretary of State he chose.  (Laughter.)  So are you suggesting that -- you just said it was the best decision he had made, so -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, it was.  And I think what -- the President has spoken at quite some length about the appreciation, respect and admiration he has for the service of Secretary Clinton, particularly in her four years as Secretary of State.

Q    Just not his best decision.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I think all of you and your coverage of some of the President’s comments about Secretary Clinton have noted how warm those comments were.

I’ll just say that the Vice President is somebody who has already run for President twice.  He’s been on a national ticket through two election cycles now, both in 2008 and in the reelection of 2012.  And so I think you could make the case that there is probably no one in American politics today who has a better understanding of exactly what is required to mount a successful national presidential campaign.  And that means that he’s going to collect all the information that he needs to make a decision.  He’s indicated that he would make a decision and announce a decision before the end of the summer, so those of us who enjoy the summertime I think would assume that that means he’s got another month or so here to think about this and announce a decision.

Q    But would -- the last thing.  Will the President remain neutral?  Or I mean, will you say right now that the President will or will not endorse somebody before the primary is over?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ve been asked this once before, and I have indicated the President does plan to vote in the Illinois primary, and that ultimately it will be Democratic voters who are responsible for choosing the Democratic nominee.  But I wouldn’t speculate at this point about whether or not the President would offer an endorsement in the Democratic primary.

Q    So you’ll rule out the possibility -- you can say endorse Joe Biden or endorse Hillary Clinton -- 

MR. EARNEST:  I wouldn’t rule out an endorsement --

Q    -- Bernie Sanders, for instance.

MR. EARNEST:  -- or Bernie Sanders.  I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of an endorsement in the Democratic primary.  I am confident the President will support the Democratic nominee in the general election.

Q    Okay, thanks.

MR. EARNEST:  Major.

Q    Is the President torn by this conversation of his Vice President possibly running against Hillary Clinton, two people he obviously thinks highly of?

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t had an extended conversation with the President about this, and I certainly am not privy to the conversations that take place just between the President and Vice President in private, like the one that, presumably, is ongoing right now.  

But, no, I would not describe the President as “torn,” principally because this is an intensely personal decision that someone has to make, to decide to run for President.  And the President has spoken about the -- about his own decision to run for President and how that was -- that required a lot of consultation and consideration, particularly when it came to the impact on his family.  And I know that those considerations weigh heavily on Vice President Biden at this time, as well. 

But obviously these are decisions that these individuals have to make for themselves.  And look, as I mentioned to Jon, I think the President’s view about Vice President Biden’s performance as the Vice President of the United States should give you a sense of the President’s belief in his aptitude for the top job.

Q    You said a moment ago that nobody has a better understanding of what it takes to mount a national campaign.  What do you think that should inform the Vice President of -- that it’s too late?

MR. EARNEST:  No, I think what it does is it basically means that he is somebody who understands exactly what he needs to know to make this decision.  And so it’s not as if he needs to ask himself a bunch of questions with which he’s unfamiliar.  I think rather he will be able to conduct this process and have the conversations that he needs to have in order to make the best decision.

Q    Does the President belief it would be healthier for the Democratic Party to have the Vice President in the race?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t asked the President that question.  Presumably you’ll have the opportunity to do that at some point.  I think what the President would say is that individual candidates are ultimately going to have to make up their own mind about whether or not they want to run.  And that's the first decision -- first and foremost.

Q    Last one on this topic -- at least from me.  (Laughter.)  Part of this derives from a sense expressed by some Democrats privately, some pundits publicly, and some donors not so privately that Hillary Clinton is in trouble, that the email situation has caused her campaign to stall.  And it’s a serious ongoing issue as far as her trust and possible legal consequences.  What do you in this White House think about the email controversy itself?  And ought it to be the source of all this consternation? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what I would observe is that it is August of 2015, and the election is not until November of 2016.  And certainly somebody who worked on President Obama’s campaign in 2007 and 2008 will recall pretty vividly August of 2007.  I think it’s fair to say that there was not a ton of confidence in the likelihood that president -- that then-Senator Barack Obama would be elected the next President of the United States.

So I think what I would do is warn people against drawing conclusions at such an early stage.

Q    So Democrats are unduly overwrought?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, there are plenty of observers to this process, and they can reach whatever conclusions they can reach; or whatever conclusions they would like.  I think I would just observe that it’s rather early in the process, and certainly if you want to consider President Obama’s presidential campaign, there are dangers associated with assuming the outcome of the race 15 months in advance.

Q    We’ve asked you about Iran before the agreement, about what Iran would have to disclose as far as its military applications of its nuclear program.  The Associated Press last week published what it contends and what others observe to be a side agreement that was, until its publication, secret indicating that Iran, for Parchin, would be able to inspect it itself, collect soil samples itself, and be the only interlocutor with the IAEA about what happened there and what it means.  What is the administration’s reaction to that?  Do you have any doubt of the authenticity of that side agreement the Associated Press published?  And why should it not undermine this part of the understanding?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think, though, what undermines that contention are the on-the-record statements of the Director General of the IAEA who indicated that the suggestion that there would be self-inspection of Iranian nuclear facilities or Iranian military facilities was misleading.  The fact is that the arrangements between Iran and the IAEA are sound and consistent with the IAEA’s long-established practice; that the IAEA in developing this inspection plan didn't compromise its safeguards or standards in any way.  

And again, it continues to be our view that this agreement is not a side agreement and it’s not a secret one primarily because this administration went to great lengths to brief every member of Congress about the contents of the agreement, and now what we’ve seen what appears to be -- or at least what the Associated Press has assessed to be a near-final document that's been released, I think it’s hard for people to make the case that this is somehow a secret agreement. 

What is true is that typically agreements between the IAEA and countries around the world are held confidential.  And the IAEA has agreements like this with hundreds of countries around the world -- or more than a hundred countries around the world, including the United States.   The last -- 

Q    So it’s your belief that the IAEA will conduct its own independent inspections at Parchin and the Iranians will not be the ones extracting the soil, explaining what it means, and carrying out the inspections?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I am confident of is that the IAEA will get access to all of the information they need and all of the access to the site that they need in order to conclude their report.

And there are some Republicans in Congress who have suggested that the IAEA will not get enough access to the site in order to write their report.  And that's a pretty bold statement considering that some of these Republicans in Congress say that they don't have enough scientific knowledge to determine whether or not climate change is actually occurring, but yet somehow they claim to have enough knowledge of nuclear physics --

Q    -- who are not Republicans -- 

MR. EARNEST:  -- to assess what kind of access the IAEA needs to Parchin -- 

Q    -- who are nonproliferation experts have also raised questions about this. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I --

Q    You acknowledge that --

MR. EARNEST:  No, I wouldn’t.  I would say that the IAEA -- 

Q    -- raised this as a partisan --

MR. EARNEST:  What I’m saying is that the IAEA has indicated that they need a certain amount of information and access in order to write their report.  And the United States, alongside our international partners, went to the Iranians and said, if you don't give the IAEA the access and information they need to write this report, then you're not going to get any sanctions relief.

That is why I have quibbled with the suggestion that somehow this is some sort of side agreement.  In fact, we’ve made clear that this agreement in full is not going to go forward unless the IAEA gets the access and information that they need in order to write this report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.  

And if the Director General of the IAEA comes forward and says, we have reached an agreement with the Iranians to get all of the access that we need that's consistent with our standards, that's consistent with our long-established practice, then we can have confidence in his ability to make that assessment.  And the good news is that we’ll have the opportunity to read the report, which they are planning to complete before the end of the year.


Q    Thank you, Josh.  Turkey’s Foreign Minister announced that they have reached a deal with the United States about starting airstrikes against ISIS inside Syria.  Can you brief us on the details of this deal, whether it’s going to have ground troops from Arab countries, whether the Turks are going to send troops, or is it just basically aerial attacks coordinated with the United States?

MR. EARNEST:  Nadia, at this point I can't confirm any agreement between our two countries.  As you know, senior U.S. officials and their Turkish counterparts have been engaged in discussions about how the United States and Turkey can deepen our cooperation when it comes to implementing our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.

Those conversations have gone -- moved past what was part of the original agreement to allow U.S. and other coalition forces to use airbases in Turkey to launch counter-ISIL strikes.  But we continue to be engaged in conversations with Turkey about how to deepen that cooperation in a way that will advance our strategy to counter ISIL, but also in a way that would improve the security situation along Turkey’s long border with Syria.

Q    So it seems that you’re contradicting what the Turkish Foreign Minister was saying.  Because every time they announce something, you come and say, it’s not an ISIS-free zone, it’s not an agreement.  It’s not an agreement.  It’s not a deal.  So the Turks seem to have a different understanding from you.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not contradicting what the Foreign Minister has said.  I’m merely suggesting that these talks are ongoing, and we have been interested in agreements that would deepen the cooperation between the United States and Turkey on a range of the efforts that are underway to counter ISIL.  But I can't confirm the results of those talks at this point.

Q    So when are airstrikes going to start?  Do you know?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States has been conducting airstrikes against ISIL for more than a year.  

Q    (Inaudible.)

MR. EARNEST:  You would have to talk to the Turks for any plans that they have.

Q    You're the other part.

MR. EARNEST:  That's certainly true.  Obviously, even in the context of an agreement, the Turks are going to make decisions about what sort of military action they're prepared to carry out. 

Amil (ph).

Q    Thank you, Josh.  I go back to Iran.  My question is about how the accord with Iran is structured.  My understanding is that the accord is between Iran, U.S., China, Britain, Germany and who else.  If the Congress doesn't support the deal, can the U.S. simply unilaterally cancel the deal, accord?  Or doesn’t the U.S. have to negotiate with its partners in this accord?  Why would these other countries work with U.S. again on other deals if Congress can simply cancel the deal?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what we have said is that if Congress were to take the step of killing the agreement, preventing its implementation by the United States, it would send a pretty dangerous signal to the international community, not just to our enemies but also to our allies.  We have gotten great cooperation not just with the P5+1, those parties who were negotiating the agreement with Iran, but we also worked closely with the Japanese and the Indians and other large economies in Asia to implement the sanctions in a way that had a very negative impact on the Iranian economy. 

And that coordination was crucial to pressuring Iran to come to the negotiating table and agree to this deal that has been reached between Iran and the international community.  If Congress were to kill the deal in terms of the U.S.’s ability to implement it, what we would likely see is that international cooperation in that international coalition fracture in a way that would allow Iran to enjoy the benefits of the deal -- that is sanctions relief -- while being under no obligation to curtail their nuclear program or to submit to inspections of their nuclear program.  

So that's why we have made a strong case here from the administration that it would be dangerous for Congress to kill this agreement.  And ultimately it would put Iran in a position to benefit from sanctions relief without having to submit to any of the restrictions or inspections that are central to this agreement.

Q    We heard all the time that everything is on the table, meaning a military option is a possibility.  Is it really a possibility?  Surely Iran has all of its most important facilities hard underground.  So also a military attack would be essentially starting a new war, a very big one in the region.  Do you think that Iranians will really believe U.S. might do that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President has made clear that every option remains on the table.  But you're also highlighting why the diplomatic option one is so important.  The first is that it could prevent a war.  And then what does seem likely, if this agreement were to be killed by Congress, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Congress kills the deal, the international unanimity of opinion fractures, Iran gets a bunch of sanctions relief and is no longer constrained by the international community when it comes to their nuclear program.  

And what you would see is you would see people all across the world, particularly and even some in the United States who right now are critics of the agreement, coming forward and saying, Mr. President, you vowed to do everything within your power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  And that means that the President would be under a lot of pressure to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon -- something that he has described as his own goal -- but yet he would have fewer tools with which to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  That is how we start to go down the path of a war.

The other thing that's important to recognize is that even the sharpest critics of this agreement have suggested that the reason that the agreement is somehow flawed is it only results in limitations on Iran’s nuclear program by 10 to 15 years.  The fact is our military analysts have indicated that a military strike would only set back Iran’s nuclear program by two or three or maybe four years.  So that is why you even have these senior military officials in the United States, those who understand very clearly the consequences of U.S. military power, that's why even they say that a diplomatic agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; that it’s the most effective way for us to limit Iran’s nuclear program.


Q    In a sense, isn’t this a bit -- isn’t this kind of moot, really?  Is this deal not already done?  Is it a done deal?  For example, today British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, who has already met with Iranian President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif in Tehran today, said that he believes the sanctions in Iran could be lifted by spring.  They're already there.  And Germany is already building their relationships back in terms of no more sanctions with Iran and Tehran.  Isn’t it already a done deal, what I’m really asking?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, JC, it’s not.  And the reason that it’s not is that we have not -- we have insisted, the United States and our international partners have insisted that Iran take significant steps to curtail their nuclear program before they're given any sanctions relief.

The concern that you're raising I think is a legitimate one, which is that if the United States Congress were to kill the agreement and essentially say that the United States is not going to abide by the agreement, I think you highlight the concern or the challenge associated with trying to unify the international community again to impose those sanctions.  Because ultimately that -- again, that's what our critics are saying is that what the United States should do is they should back out of this agreement, re-impose sanctions, and go back to the negotiating table.  But it is not at all clear that the international community is going to re-impose sanctions merely because Congress has taken a vote that we disagree with.  

I do think it’s reasonable and the President certainly thinks it’s reasonable that the international community would re-impose sanctions if we detected that Iran were cheating on their nuclear program.  That's what the power of the snapback provision of the agreement is.  But ultimately, the concern that we have here is that if Congress were to kill the deal, this would ultimately allow Iran to benefit from all of the sanctions relief because the international unanimity of opinion, the international coalition that had been formed to impose sanctions on Iran would fracture.  Iran would get all kinds of sanctions relief but yet would not be faced with imposing constraints or inspections on their nuclear program.

Q    Either they are very confident that the President will get what he wants or they're going ahead anyway. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, I can't speak to the actions of individual countries.  But no sanctions relief has been given to Iran and will not be given to Iran until they take the wide variety of steps that we’ve outlined to curtail their nuclear program.  This is reducing their uranium stockpile by 98 percent, unplugging thousands of centrifuges, essentially gutting the core of their plutonium heavy water reactor at Arak, and agreeing with the IAEA’s request for information and access that's required to complete their report about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.


Q    I want to hit three subjects really quickly if we can.  First on the economy, since January 2009, has the United States economy grown more or less dependent on the Chinese economy? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, James, I think what we’ve seen in terms of the U.S. economy -- and this is true of the broader global economy -- that the world is more interconnected, and there is no doubt that economies around the world have a greater ability to influence other economies.  And that is precisely why the United States has distinguished itself among other economies since 2009 for the strength and resilience of economic growth in this country.  And the President is hopeful that the United States Congress will take advantage of the momentum that we have built up to do things like reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, make a long-term increased investment in infrastructure, the kinds of things that we know would be good for the economy -- not just in the short term, but over the long term.

Q    So there’s nothing you can point to since January 2009 by way of President Obama’s actions that indicate that he has undertaken efforts to uncouple the United States’ economy in any significant way from the Chinese economy?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, James, I don't think that anybody would make the case that our economies are coupled.  I think that what we would recognize is that in a 21st century global economy, countries of the world see their economy as more intertwined.  And that's why the President has, again, taken the kinds of steps that would actually capitalize on many of those relationships that already exist.  That's one of the reasons the President has been such an aggressive advocate of trying to pass trade promotion authority legislation that would give the United States more leverage as we try to capitalize on these relationships that exist.

Q    On Iran, is it the view of the United States government that the United States government is legally enjoined or prohibited from moving forward with the implementation of Iran deal until the congressional action is resolved?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the legislation that Congress passed back in the spring essentially said that the United States would not take steps to implement this deal until Congress had had a sufficient time to consider it.  Now, they set a timeline for themselves.  It had been 30 days and was later extended to 60 days for complicated reasons.  So the administration will not move forward with implementing the agreement until that 60-day window has been completed.

Q    Does the administration have any understanding of the process that is underway in Iran and what is necessary for the implementation of the agreement to ensue or commence once that process is finished?

MR. EARNEST:  It is my understanding that there is a process moving through the Iranian parliament, the Majlis, where this is getting some consideration there.  I will acknowledge that I am no expert on what that process actually is, but we can certainly have somebody talk to you about that if you're interested in it. 

Q    Do you know how many centrifuges Iran had installed as of January 20, 2009?

MR. EARNEST:  I don't know off the top of my head, but we can certainly get these numbers for you.

Q    The best estimates of the IAEA and independent scholars like Graham Allison, whom the administration has cited in this context are that there were 5,000 centrifuges, more or less, in Iran installed at the time President Obama took office.  As you all have noted many times at the start of these negotiations in November 2013, Iran had 19,000 centrifuges installed.  If we accept those numbers, it would indicate that 75 percent of Iran’s centrifuges were installed under the Obama-Biden watch.  Do you accept that to be true?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, James, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but I do think you're highlighting an important story here.  And what that story is, is that the international community when President Obama took office was fractured about how to actually confront Iran and their nuclear program.  And we did see an Iranian nuclear program that was racing to upgrade their capabilities and their infrastructure.  But because of the President’s success in unifying the international community, we actually put in place an agreement -- as you point out -- in November of 2013 that actually brought their program to a halt.  And that did put a freeze on the number of centrifuges that they were operating.  And if this agreement is to move forward -- and we're hopeful that it will if Congress doesn't kill it -- we will actually see thousands of those centrifuges unplugged.  And that will be a significant constraint on Iran’s nuclear program and speaks to the importance of building and maintain international consensus around these limitations.  That's the danger associated with Congress killing the deal -- fracturing international opinion and unanimity of effort.

Q    Lastly, to politics.  Does President Obama regard Vice President Biden as the legitimate inheritor of the Obama legacy?  (Laughter.) 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I -- 

Q    Yes or no is fine.  (Laughter.)  

MR. EARNEST:  Let me say this.  There is so much that has been accomplished over the last six or seven years that President Obama is enormously proud of.  And a large portion of it would not have been possible without the wisdom, counsel, and leadership of Vice President Biden.  That remains a fact, and that will be true whether he chooses to run for President himself again or not.

Q    It was very clear some months ago that former Secretary of State Clinton was critical publicly of some aspects of President Obama’s foreign policy, in particular with respect to Syria.  The President in his interview with Tom Friedman at that time shot back and called back what Secretary Clinton had been advising “a fantasy”.  You don't challenge any of those predicate facts, do you?

MR. EARNEST:  I guess not.

Q    Okay.  Is President Obama aware of any instance in which Vice President Biden has criticized President Obama’s decision-making or record over the past six years?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, off the top of my head, no.  I’m certain that there have not been situations where Vice President Biden has agreed in the context of heated policy discussions that take place around here.  

Q    Has there been a single instance where President Obama has found that advice or counsel that Vice President Biden was offering to him was fantastical in nature?  (Laughter.) 

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I haven’t been a part of all of their conversations.  I’m confident that there have been situations on very important issues where ultimately -- where they did have a disagreement.  But ultimately, at every turn, Vice President Biden acknowledged that it was the responsibility of President Obama to make the final decision.

I will say that one of the things -- and this is something that President Obama has said about Vice President Biden on a number of occasions -- that he has long appreciated the willingness of Vice President Biden to speak up in a meeting when he does disagree and his willingness to offer a contrarian point of view to make sure that those who are participating in the meeting and examining a particular issues are considering every contingency.  And the President certainly appreciates the Vice President’s approach to that kind of constructive engagement in the policy process.

Q    Last question.  As titular leader of the Democratic Party, and as somebody interested in seeing his legacy in the Executive Branch carried forward in the next four years, and as just a general proposition, would President Obama prefer to see as the Democratic nominee somebody who is engaged in the business of surrendering evidence to the FBI, or someone who is not?

MR. EARNEST:  James, I think that at the end of the day, the President is confident that Democratic voters will choose somebody who can very ably -- not just represent the Democratic Party in the general election, but somebody who would do an excellent job of leading the United States of America over the course of the next eight years.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  On the Hillary Clinton topic, there are at least 11 Freedom of Information lawsuits against the State Department over information from Secretary Clinton and her aides.  A federal judge last week said that she didn’t follow policy.  Can you at least acknowledge that this is not the standard your administration set for transparency and access to information that’s being lived up to at the State Department?

MR. EARNEST:  Byron, I think I would disagree slightly.  I do think that the administration -- the State Department has gone to great lengths to try to comply with the significant number of requests that they have received from the United States Congress and from members of the public for information.  And they’re engaged in a process now of reviewing the tens of thousands of emails that Secretary Clinton has turned over to the State Department.  And Secretary Clinton has actually asked that those emails be made public.  And that’s an extraordinary step, and it certainly is consistent with the kind of commitment that President Obama has made to making transparency a priority.

Q    Regardless of whether she asked for them to be made public, they are public records under the FOIA process, no?  I mean, some of these lawsuits have been pending for years, including the Associated Press lawsuit against the State Department.  I mean, can you say for certain that the Department is responding in an adequate time, especially given that this is a presidential candidate running for -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m confident that those who have made their requests have a sense of urgency associated with those requests.  But I can confirm for you that the State Department is working expeditiously to try to both handle the information appropriately, to protect sensitive information, but also to be as transparent as possible, and to do it all as quickly as possible.

So they’re balancing a wide variety of equities, but they’re certainly very focused on responding to those requests and to living up to the high standard of transparency that this administration has set.  

Q    One more.  Two weeks ago, in Iowa, Secretary of State Clinton described the investigations into her as the “same old partisan games.”  Is the FBI investigation a partisan game?  Is the IC IG -- is the intelligence community inspector general investigation -- are these partisan in nature?  Or are there legitimate questions being asked here?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Byron, I’d say a couple of things about that.  I’m obviously going to be reluctant to have much to say about ongoing investigations.  My understanding, though, is that most of those investigations are geared toward the handling of that information and are not targeting Secretary Clinton.


Q    Well, we all know that it’s an investigation and it’s part of an investigation, and you usually refer to the investigation.  But doesn’t the administration have its own questions about how those emails were handled during that period of time?  And if you have had questions, have they been answered adequately by Clinton’s team?

MR. EARNEST:  Michelle, the expectation that the administration has set is for individuals who serve in the Obama administration to use their official government email when conducting official government business.  And those instances where personal email is used for official government business, it’s the responsibility of that individual to turn over those emails to the agency so that they can be properly archived and used when responding to requests from the public or the media or Congress.  That’s what Secretary Clinton has done, and that’s what the State Department is trying to fulfill.

Q    So you have no questions about how it was all handled?  You feel that it was all done according to that expectation?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I feel is that we’ve been very clear about what our policy is.  We’ve been clear in terms of the guidance that we’ve given to employees about what they should do to fulfill it, and based on what Secretary Clinton and her team have said publicly, that’s what they’ve done.

Q    Okay.  And did the President speak with Vice President Biden while the President was on vacation?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know the answer to that.  What I will say is that the President and Vice President have the opportunity to speak frequently, and we don’t read them all out.  But today’s meeting, obviously -- they meet weekly for lunch, and that’s something that we typically make public.

Q    And I mean, is it safe to assume that they have discussed -- because we’ve said so much about this possibility of running and how much the President values that relationship and it was the best decision he’s ever made.  So I mean, we can say that they’ve spoken about this possibility of his running, right?  That they’ve had these discussions?  I mean, can’t we all -- 

MR. EARNEST:  I’m going to be cautious of not going down the path describing private conversations between the President of the United States and the Vice President, other than to tell you that those conversations tend to be wide-ranging and they cover everything from work to family.  And I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not you think that this decision facing the Vice President falls into either of those two categories.

Q    Okay.  And it’s been said by various people, as this is being discussed endlessly, that it puts the President --

MR. EARNEST:  So it’s not just me that thinks so?  (Laughter.) 

Q    -- it puts the President in an if not impossible -- which is a word that has been used -- but a really difficult position, at least politically, especially because so many people within this administration are now working with former Secretary Clinton.  So what would you say about that?  That he’s in this terrible position or a difficult one, that it’s going to be hard for him to deal with?

MR. EARNEST:  Look, the President is very focused on the job that he has now.  And we’ve talked at some length about the long list of priorities that the President has, particularly for things that even are going to come up in the next four to six weeks -- from state visits by the President of China, to trying to get this Iran agreement through the Congress, to making sure that Congress doesn’t shut down the government again, to try to reverse the sequester, reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  We haven’t yet talked about the visit of the Pope that’s planned for the end of September.  There are a long list of priorities, and that is what the President is most focused on.

There will be a time for him to focus on the presidential election, and certainly he’s got something at stake here.  When we get to the general election, I anticipate that we will have a pretty aggressive, robust discussion about the direction of the country.  And I do feel confident in predicting at this point that the Democratic nominee is going to have a vision more closely aligned with President Obama’s than the Republican nominee.  And I think you will find that the President will be an advocate for the Democratic nominee at that point.  But right now, the President is focused on the job that he’s got at hand.

Q    Okay.  And lastly, you expressed even more confidence today in the support that the Iran deal has gotten.  So is the President going to keep reaching out to individual members of Congress?

MR. EARNEST:  He will.

Q    You feel that that’s still necessary?

MR. EARNEST:  We do feel it’s necessary.  And what this administration wants to do is to try to build as much support in Congress as we can for the agreement, both the House and the Senate.  And that means you’ll continue to see senior members of the administration traveling to Capitol Hill, engaging in conversations with members of Congress when they return from their break.  I would anticipate you’ll continue to hear about phone calls not just between senior administration officials and members of Congress who are scattered across the country -- and in some cases around the world -- during their August recess, but even the President himself has and will continue to pick up the phone and engage in these kinds of conversations.

This is a top priority.  And the President wants to build as much support as he can in the United States Congress.

Q    Did he do some of that while he was on vacation?

MR. EARNEST:  He did.  He did.

Connie, go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much.  I think we all agree that the events last week were amazing in France, but is the new model now of the administration “see something, do something”?  Are we all to become vigilantes?  Does he approve of the actions that were taken last week in France?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Connie, I think what you saw is you saw the actions of three brave and quick-thinking Americans who took some bold steps to avert what could have been a terrible, terrible tragedy.  And these are individuals who acted very bravely, and they put themselves in harm’s way.  And I know at least one of them sustained some minor injuries in the confrontation.  But again, this is an indication of what three quick-thinking, brave individuals can do.

What I’ll also say is that this situation certainly is a reminder of the priority that the President has placed on trying to stop the flow of foreign fighters into Syria and Iraq.  And you’ll recall that almost a year ago the President convened a meeting with other leaders at the United Nations to discuss efforts to better integrate and coordinate our efforts to stop the flow of foreign fighters.  And that is work that is not glamorous, and it doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it certainly is an important part of protecting the American public not just here in the United States but around the world.

Q    Where is the fine line between vigilance and vigilantism?    

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think that’s a question for many people to ponder.  I think there’s no question that those Americans who leapt to the defense of their fellow passengers over in Europe over the weekend acted heroically.  And we owe them all a debt of gratitude.  

Q    Okay.  There was one British man, too.

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, there was.  Cheryl.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  At the end of July, you said you hoped that Congress would spend some time this summer maybe laying the groundwork for budget negotiations.  Do you have any information that that happened?  Are you part of -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Unfortunately, I do not.  We have seen Democrats in Congress for weeks now urging -- maybe even months -- urging Republicans in Congress to come to the negotiating table to try to find common ground and avert a government shutdown.  And we have unfortunately seen Republicans refuse to even engage in those kinds of bipartisan consultations to discuss a bipartisan budget agreement. 

And unfortunately, I think what we’re going to hear is we’re going to hear Congress come back to work in a couple of weeks and they’re going to say, well, we don’t have enough time to try to reach a broader budget agreement so we’re just going to have to do a continuing resolution.  And I got to tell you, that’s not -- in the view of the President, that certainly is not the best way to run the greatest country in the world.  In fact, we do have an opportunity for us to capitalize on some momentum in our economy and make the kinds of investments that are going to strengthen our economy, and that will act in the best interest of middle-class families.  

We can do all that in a financially responsible, fiscally responsible way.  And we can also make the kinds of investments that we know are critical to our national security.  But we’re not going to be able to accomplish any of that if Republicans refuse to even talk to Democrats in Congress to get it done.


Q    Just to be clear, beginning of the briefing you were talking about the important momentum for the Iran agreement.  How confident is the administration now that it would be able to prevail if it needed to override a veto?  

MR. EARNEST:  To sustain a veto?

Q    To sustain. 

MR. EARNEST:  The administration continues to be confident that we will build enough support to sustain a veto in the Congress.

Q    And no one knows better than Barack Obama and his political team what it takes to defeat a Democratic frontrunner in the presidential primary.  (Laughter.)  Is it too late to do that now, to start a campaign to do that now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I guess the only person who might know a little bit more about that, or at least as much about that, would be somebody like you who covered it from the beginning.  What I will say is that I think -- again, I think the lesson that many of us who worked on that campaign learned is that it certainly is too early to be drawing a lot of conclusions about the outcome.  And the most effective way to run a campaign is not to be focused on what the other candidates are doing, but to be focused on building your own campaign.

And I have complete confidence that that’s what all of the Democratic candidates that are already declared are doing.  And that’s what they should be doing.

Q    Lastly, you mentioned Lew has been talking with the Chinese about the currency devaluation and movement to market-based exchanges.  Has he been conveying from the administration more a view that that’s a favorable development, and that it moves the exchange rate close to market-based, or an unfavorable development in the view that it’s a devaluation that some have suggested is an insidious move to lower the price of Chinese exports?  What, on balance, is the view that he’s been conveying?

MR. EARNEST:  Mike, to be frank with you, I don’t have that detailed of a readout of the conversation to provide to you.  

Q    Good or bad?

MR. EARNEST:  What we have done is reinforce what has been a pretty consistent message from the administration, which is that we would like to see China take additional steps to move more rapidly toward a market-determined exchange rate system.  And that is a message that Secretary Lew has been reinforcing not just over the last couple of years that he’s been in that job, but even over the last couple of weeks, as we’ve seen some increased volatility in the Chinese financial markets.


Q    How much do you love these Biden questions?  (Laughter.)  

MR. EARNEST:  There are certainly some other topics that I would prefer to discuss.

Q    As a campaign veteran.  

Q    And do you also love the Clinton questions?  I mean, like, how is this going -- do you have a strategy?  Do you like pump yourself up to come out here to deal with us every time?  (Laughter.)  

MR. EARNEST:  Look, there is no doubt that there is going to be -- that certainly over the next 15 or 16 months that the President has remaining here in the White House, that we’re going to be spending some time talking about who the next President is going to be.  And we have a rather protracted, drawn-out process in this country for determining who that person is going to be, but it leads to some really important and illuminating debates.

And I think that there will be -- that while speculation on the potential candidacies of one individual or another is less productive, from my point of view, than an actual debate about some of the policies that are being prioritized by some of the candidates.  

And I do relish the opportunity over the course of the next 16 months to continue to highlight what I think will be some pretty stark differences between the priorities that are championed by some Republicans, and the kinds of priorities that this President has been fighting for during his seven years here in the White House.  And there’s no doubt that that will be in the backdrop of a lot of these kinds of conversations that we have in this room, but I relish the opportunity to have those kinds of conversations.

Q    Is there a sense that the primary -- until the primary is over, it’s going to be challenging for the administration, for you?  That it will be sort of this excruciating, trying-to-get-you-to-take-a-position thing for the next --

MR. EARNEST:  Look, I’m not particularly bothered by it.  This is a part of the process.  And, yes, I would certainly prefer to be focused on a more policy-specific discussion.  But that time will come, and when it does, it will be an opportunity that I think is important for the country for us to examine some of these priorities.  And having a robust debate like that is something that I’m pleased to have the opportunity to participate in.

Jared, I’ll give you the last one for today.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Two; one on the stock market.  You, as you usually are from the podium, are pretty careful in reacting to the news today about the market.  Some of the 2016 candidates on Twitter and elsewhere, not as careful.  And I wonder, without evaluating the content -- although the content -- whether it’s Trump saying it’s China’s fault, or Bernie Sanders saying Wall Street executives and Wall Street regulations are -- other Republican candidates saying it’s the President’s fault -- without evaluating the content of those, maybe about the cavalier nature of that, and whether the White House has any reaction to people who are capturing some snippet of the public attention and how they’re using that celebrity.

MR. EARNEST:  So you’re asking if I have a reaction to anybody else’s reaction to the market reaction?  (Laughter.)  

Q    I guess, although when you say it like that it sounds silly.  (Laughter.)  

MR. EARNEST:  That was not my -- that was sort of my intent.  But I’ll take it seriously.  And I think what I’d just say is this, Jared -- I do think it illustrates the difference between campaigning and governing, and that there is a different responsibility that I have when I’m standing here to be a little bit more cautious and judicious about the way that I’d describe market reactions, and those who are campaigning and making political arguments don’t have as much of a -- have a different responsibility.  And that doesn’t mean that they’re doing anything wrong; it just means that they have a different job.

Q    When the Vice President meets with someone like Senator Elizabeth Warren, what’s the level of heads-up that the White House gets on that?  Do you -- hey, Josh is going to get 40 questions about this on Monday, we’ve got to make sure to give you guys -- what was known in this particular weekend?  And what’s the kind of tabs on the Vice President’s schedule generally?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jared, the thing that I do know is that the Vice President is engaged in a process where he’s considering whether or not he wants to be a candidate for President.  And I’m confident that he’ll convene a number of private meetings, some of which don’t end up staying private.  But ultimately, that will be a process that he will conduct, and he certainly is entitled to spend as much time and talk to whomever he would like to make that decision.  And in the meantime, I, like all of you, will be eager to hear what he decides when he ultimately does.

Q    I’m sorry, just to clarify -- in terms of this particular meeting, was the White House made aware before it became news?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jared, I’ll just say that the -- let me just -- I’ll just put all my cards on the table here.  I’m not going to be in a position of confirming individual meetings that the Vice President participates in.

Q    But that’s not what I’m asking.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think you are implicitly asking me to confirm his meeting with Senator Warren.  I’m not denying that that occurred; I’m just telling you that I’m not going to be in a position of confirming the existence of individual meetings.

Q    I’m sorry, I know this is the end and we’ve been here for a while, but just to -- did the White House have any information about this in advance, public or -- I’m not asking about what you know now, I’m asking what you knew then.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, again, Jared, I’m just not going to get into the details of individual private meetings.  

Thanks, everybody.

2:01 P.M. EDT