This is historical material “frozen in time”. The website is no longer updated and links to external websites and some internal pages may not work.

Search form

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 11/6/2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:51 P.M. EST

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  How we feeling?  

Q    A very quiet Friday at the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  Just a sleepy Friday at the White House.  I’m sure we’ll try to come up with something to talk about today.  (Laughter.) 

Before we do, however, I just want to acknowledge my colleague Kendra Barkoff, who has been the press secretary to the Vice President for a little over four years now.  Today is her last day at the White House.  And she’s somebody that I know that many of you all had an opportunity to work closely with, particularly in the last few months.  And she’s obviously somebody who has served not just the Vice President, but the entire administration with a lot of skill and professionalism.  And she’s also a lot of fun to work with, too. 

So we certainly wish her well in her journey moving forward and hope that she’ll stay in touch.

But with that, Darlene, let’s get to your questions.

Q    All right, let’s get to them.  So on Keystone, now that we have a decision, can you describe a little bit for us exactly when the State Department finished the review, when it got to the President, a little bit about how we got to where we got to today?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Darlene, as you obviously noted, the State Department concluded a years-long review of the Keystone pipeline project.  And they determined that construction of the project would not serve the national interest of the United States.  

Now, I know there are many people who have expressed their disagreement with that conclusion.  Those proponents of the project often say that this project would contribute to our energy security, that it would lower gas prices, and it would be good for the economy.  But the fact is this rigorous State Department review that you all have now seen concluded that the impact of the project on all of those factors is negligible.  The one significant impact we know that the project would have is in undermining the ability of the President of the United States and other senior U.S. officials who have enjoyed great success in going around the world and convincing other countries to follow the lead of the United States in making a significant commitment to fighting climate change and curbing carbon pollution.

Here’s why that's significant.  For decades, critics of U.S. efforts to cut carbon pollution said that it was foolish for the United States to pursue those kinds of policies on our own.  They said it didn't make sense for the United States to be trying to cut our carbon footprint if China and Brazil and Japan and South Korea and Australia and a bunch of European economies weren’t willing to do the same thing.  

Well, now we actually have seen that China and Brazil and Japan and South Korea and Australia and a bunch of European economies are willing to do the same thing.  And the reason they're willing to do the same thing is because they’ve taken a close look at what’s happening here in the United States and acknowledged that here in the United States, business as usual when it comes to our energy policy is not acceptable, and that because of the changes that we’ve put in place, other countries have made a significant commitment.  

And to build a pipeline project that would incentivize the extraction of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet and facilitate its efficient transport to the United States would undermine that case.  And that ultimately is the conclusion that was reached by the State Department.  And it was the conclusion that the President agreed with.

Over the years that the State Department has been considering this project, the White House has received periodic updates.  But the President received the final determination from Secretary Kerry this morning in their meeting.  

Q    In 2013, when the President gave his speech laying out his climate agenda, he said at the time that the litmus test for Keystone would be to reject it if it would significantly increase carbon emissions.  Today he seemed to be railing a lot against how politicized the whole process had become.  Did he, in effect, sort of change the standard by which he would have judged that project? 

MR. EARNEST:  He did not, Darlene.  In fact, in the very next sentence of that speech, he said, “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”  And the impact of the project, as determined by this rigorous review is that the impact on things like energy security and gas prices and the U.S. economy were negligible. 

The most significant impact and the net effect of this project moving forward is to undermine our ability to persuade other countries to follow our lead when it comes to fighting climate change.  And the consequences for that are significant.

As I described earlier, our critics have suggested that this was a key part of the strategy for fighting climate change, and that for the United States to try to pursue this on our own would be an exercise in futility.  The fact is we have built an important international effort in this regard, and so the determination is consistent with the standard that the President had set.

Q    How much of the decision is related to the upcoming climate talks in Paris and wanting to kind of get the Keystone issue off the table before he goes there? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, for the precise decision about the timing of releasing this report, you should go to the State Department because it was obviously a process that they were running.  But given the fact that so much of their conclusion rested upon the impact that this decision would have on international deliberations on climate change, it seems obvious to me that the authors of this report were mindful of the upcoming international meeting to discuss climate change.

Q    Finally, do you have any sort of update for us on U.S. assessments into the Russian plane crash?  Yesterday, the President used the word “bomb” when he was commenting on it.

MR. EARNEST:  He did.  He did.  I don't have an update beyond what we’ve said before.  The United States still has not made our own determination about the cause of the incident.  And while we can't rule anything in or out, we have to consider the possibility of potential terrorist involvement here.

Out of an abundance of caution, though, and mindful of that possibility, Secretary Johnson earlier today announced a series of interim precautionary measures that would be taken at a handful of airports in the region to further secure the aviation system for American travelers.  So we're obviously mindful of new information that comes in, and we want to make sure that we communicate as much as possible about what information the U.S. government has learned, and be sure that our national security officials are taking the appropriate steps given those facts and given those possibilities to protect the American people.


Q    Josh, is the White House concerned about a potential lawsuit from TransCanada about this decision?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not aware of what sort of legal standing they may assert in pressing those kinds of claims.  So I’m certainly not aware of any plans that they may have, but I suppose you should ask them. 

Q    Is there anything in this decision that would prevent TransCanada from applying again, either with this administration or with a future administration?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know the answer to that, Jeff, in terms of what would sort of govern their ability to resubmit an application.  You should check with the State Department about that.

Q    The President mentioned his desire to deepen the relationship between the United States and Canada, and said that officials from both sides will be meeting soon.  What does that mean exactly?  What exactly does he expect those officials to accomplish?  And what would you like to see?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t know that the President necessarily had a specific meeting in mind.  But I do think the President continues to be hopeful that the United States and Canada can build on the already-strong working relationship we have with them when pursuing the interests of citizens in both of our countries.  And I do know that Prime Minister Trudeau did spend more time in the context of his campaign talking about his commitment to taking more aggressive action to confront climate change.  And if there’s an opportunity for the United States and Canada to deepen our cooperation in that pursuit, we certainly would welcome a conversation on that topic.

Q    Does the President plan to meet with the Prime Minister at the G20 or at the Paris climate summit?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have an update on the President’s schedule at this point, but we’ll obviously keep you posted.

Q    And on one last topic.  Reuters is reporting that chemical weapons experts have determined that mustard gas was used in Syria in a town where Islamic State insurgents were battling another group.  Does the White House have a reaction to that, especially after the Syrian government agreed to get rid of its stockpiles of chemical weapons?

MR. EARNEST:  Jeff, I haven't seen that specific report, but let me see if I can have somebody at the NSC follow up with you on it.

Let’s move around.  Richard.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Prime Minister Trudeau in his reaction said he was disappointed but yet the relationship between the United States and Canada is much wider than this project.  And he says he’s impatient to meet the President in the near future, for a new beginning in the spirit of friendship and collaboration.  Would you say it’s a new beginning?  The project is on the side, there’s a new Prime Minister.  It is a new beginning in the relationship between the two countries.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think that’s an apt description.  I don’t think -- when I use that word, it certainly wouldn’t be intended to diminish the important relationship that the U.S. and Canada enjoyed while Prime Minister Harper was in office.  Obviously Prime Minister Harper had effective working relationships with both President Bush and President Obama.  But there is a new Prime Minister in Canada, there’s a new government in Canada, and obviously this project that has gotten so much attention is no longer so prominently featured on the agenda.  And that may create some additional new opportunities for our two countries to work together.  And if those opportunities exist, this administration and certainly this President will not hesitate to seize them.

Q    There’s a hopeful tone in the Prime Minister’s communiqué that you haven't seen, maybe.  But do you see this hopefulness?  Do you feel it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President certainly is optimistic about the kind of continuing cooperation that will be enjoyed by the United States and Canada, and there are a variety of ways in which that cooperation is critically important.  Obviously the United States and Canada have a significant economic relationship.  The economies of our two countries are closely intertwined.  Obviously the United States and Canada enjoy significant national security ties and a cooperative relationship that benefits the national security of both of our countries.  And if there is an opportunity for us -- as I mentioned to Jeff, if there’s an opportunity for us to deepen our cooperation in fighting climate change, which, based on his campaign rhetoric sounds like something that Prime Minister Trudeau might be open to, we certainly would welcome the opportunity to cooperate on that priority.

Q    Technically, the conversation this morning was just, again, the second since the Prime Minister has been elected?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s correct.  But it was their first opportunity to talk about the Keystone pipeline project.

Q    Thank you very much.  By the way, do you know how long it was, the conversation?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know how long the conversation lasted, but we can follow up with you on that.

Q    Last question.  You underlined pretty clearly that this project was undermining and would have undermined had it been approved -- this argument towards other countries in fighting climate change.  So would you say that, finally, this project and this very aspect of the relationship with Canada has been sacrificed in the hope of helping -- the present climate change agenda was sacrificed for this?

MR. EARNEST:  No, I wouldn’t describe it that way, primarily because of what we were talking about earlier -- that the President continues to be quite optimistic about the health and future prospects of a strong U.S.-Canada relationship.  And based on the communiqué that Prime Minister Trudeau issued, it’s apparent that he shares that optimism.  And the President and his team are looking forward to getting to work to seize that opportunity.


Q    Can I ask about TPP?  This morning, Senator Hatch was at the Chamber of Commerce and made some remarks he’s unhappy with some of the intellectual property provisions in that agreement, and suggested that that part of the TPP might have to be renegotiated.  Is there room for you to renegotiate that agreement?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, before I answer your question, there is one aspect of this that I want to clarify from yesterday -- and this is actually an answer that I gave to Kevin -- about the process that’s underway.  And it’s confusing and I got confused, so I want to make sure that it’s clear to all of you.  There are two clocks that are underway right now in terms of the President’s consideration of the agreement that was just made public in the last couple of days.  And let me try to describe to you. 

Under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation that Congress passed, the President is required to allow the text of the agreement to be public for 60 days before he signs it.  And that is what I said yesterday.  There’s another clock, however, which is the 90-day clock that started on the same day -- and this is the significance here.  It started on the same day because the President submitted his intent to sign the trade agreement.  And the Trade Promotion Authority legislation also requires that the President wait 90 days by informing Congress of his intent to sign it and actually signing the agreement.  So it actually will be 90 days from when the text went public -- at least 90 days since the text went public before the President will sign it.

So, yesterday I said 60 days, and so I apologize for the confusion about that.  I think you can see why I was confused.

Q    Understood.

MR. EARNEST:  As it relates to the comments of Senator Hatch -- no, it would not be wise, after five years of negotiations with among 12 different countries, to try to renegotiate the agreement, particularly considering that the agreement was only reached a month ago.  

Now, as it relates to the specific argument that he’s making about the deep concern that he has for the financial wellbeing of the pharmaceutical industry, the fact of the matter is, in these 12 countries -- well, what the pharmaceutical industry has been advocating for are essentially 12 years of data protection of their products to ensure that generic versions of their drugs can’t be sold for 12 years.  They do have a legitimate argument in terms of making the case that there should be some protection that they’re afforded so that they continue to have an incentive to invest in the kind of research and development that will yield new lifesaving medications.  

So their desire for some protection is certainly reasonable.  In the United States, they enjoy 12 years of protection.  And what they have suggested is that that 12-year period of protection should also be afforded to them and the other member states of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The agreement actually puts in place an effective standard of eight years among the TPP-member nations.  And so the pharmaceutical industry has suggested that we fell short of our goals by four years.  That fails to account for the current situation.  Right now, there are five different countries who are part of the TPP agreement who have zero data protection for the pharmaceutical industry.  So this really isn’t a situation of the pharmaceutical industry needing to acknowledge that the glass if half full.  They actually need to acknowledge that a previously empty glass is now almost entirely full.  

And this is an agreement that reflects both the need to compromise, but it also reflects the need to ensure that patients in all of the TPP countries have access to lifesaving drugs, and that if you put in place essentially a protection period that’s too long, you will for too long deny lifesaving medication to those patients who need it.  And that’s why we believe both that this is a reasonable agreement -- an agreement that’s good for patients in all the countries -- and ultimately is an agreement that will significantly improve the prospects of those pharmaceutical industry.  And the fact is, we agree to the agreement anyway.  And it’s one that we continue to believe deserves strong bipartisan support in the United States Congress.


Q    On Keystone, the argument was often made that I think 40,000 jobs would be created by this project, temporary though they may be.  What was the finding about that?  Is that true?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you can take a look at the actual report.  And there is a job creation analysis in there.  In terms of permanent jobs, their conclusion is that this would create a grand total of 35 permanent jobs here in the United States.  The overall economic impact of this project would be 0.02 percent -- which is why I described the broader economic impact of the project as negligible based on the robust analysis that was performed by the State Department.

Q    And I think some would argue that 20,000 jobs, though they’re temporary, are significant, especially if you don’t have a job.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think those who make that argument are principally those who -- or at least many of them -- have blocked them administration’s proposal to make a robust investment in our infrastructure.  That would actually create more than 1.5 million new jobs over 10 years.  

So the fact of the matter is, this is a proposal that is fully paid for.  It is a proposal that deserves bipartisan support and makes investments all across the country and in infrastructure projects that benefit everybody.  So if those who are making that argument are actually interested in working with the administration to create jobs based on investments in infrastructure, I’ve got a great idea where they can start their efforts, and that’s by focusing on the GROW AMERICA Act. 

Q    And why did the President say that there was a possibility there was a bomb on the Russian flight?

MR. EARNEST:  He made that statement based on what the U.S. government has learned in the last few days.

Q    So he’s been briefed and there’s some intelligence that suggests this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not going to get into all of details, and I’m not prepared to offer my own intelligence assessment from here.  But one of the national security priorities that we have tried to adhere to is to share as much information as we can with the American public about these kinds of matters that are relevant to our national security.  And as a result of this information, the Department of Homeland Security has taken steps at a handful of airports in the region to improve our security measures to ensure the safety of the American traveling public.

Q    But the point is, he said that based on a U.S. assessment, not because of a conversation with the British Prime Minister or something else?  So the point is, there is some U.S. assessment, information that leads the President to say that there was a possibility of a bomb on the plane?

MR. EARNEST:  There is information that is known by the U.S. government that led the President to make that statement.

Q    And you can’t give us any information about what that -- where it came from, what indicates how --

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not able to based on our, I think, reasonable need to protect sources and methods.

Q    And on other issue -- the whole Middle East peace process.  What is the President’s -- can you describe the President’s concern that he has essentially said through his aids that the administration is going to end and there will be no two-state solution?  And this is something that so many Presidents have worked at, the United States has tried so hard to achieve.  There must be a tremendous feeling of -- well, I don’t want to say failure, but disappointment.  What is it?

MR. EARNEST:  There is disappointment about the fact that Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has said that the conditions are not right for a Palestinian state.  And we have long made clear through the arduous effort that this administration has made, particularly the efforts of Secretary Kerry in this regard, that the United States can’t make these difficult decisions on behalf of the parties.  The United States can play an important role in bringing the parties together and trying to facilitate some conversations and trying to help both sides build some trust.  But ultimately, when it comes down to making the difficult decisions, the leaders of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people have to make those decisions.  And as long as the Prime Minister of Israel is suggesting that the conditions are not right for a Palestinian state, it’s going to be hard to have a two-state solution to the conflict between the two parties if one of the parties is suggesting that the other one can't have a state.

Q    Well, but that's the essence of the dispute to some extent, that the Israeli assessment is that --

MR. EARNEST:  Not really, Ron.

Q    -- Palestinian conditions are not there for a Palestinian state.  So the U.S. is basing its assessment primarily on what the Israeli Prime Minister’s assessment is?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we're basing our assessment based on the public comments of the Israeli Prime Minister.  We're not -- the United States can't impose a two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians.  I’m not really sure that would be a smart thing to do.  But even if we wanted to, we wouldn’t be able to.  

The fact of the matter is -- we’ve said this for a long time -- that the leaders of the Israeli people and the Palestinian people are ultimately going to be responsible for making the difficult decisions that will finally resolve this conflict.  And it has been the U.S. policy for quite some time now -- a policy that Democratic and Republican administrations have supported -- to try to bring about a two-state solution.  And based on the comments of the Prime Minister of Israel, that seems not likely to occur over the course of the next 15 months.

However, that likelihood and that expectation will not in any way color the commitment of this administration to further deepen the unprecedented level of security cooperation between our two countries.

Q    What is the U.S. doing on the Palestinian side?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I know that Secretary Kerry over the last couple of months, since there’s been some more turmoil in the region, has been in touch with Palestinian leaders.  But for more details on that, I’d refer you to the State Department.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  On Gitmo, I asked earlier if there was a move at foot to reduce to below 100 the number of detainees that would be held at the prison before year’s end.  You weren’t certain at the time.  Has that changed at all?  And is it the President’s intention -- the numbers that you gave yesterday, I believe it was 56, if I’m not mistaken, that were eligible for transfer -- is it the President’s intention to have those detainees transferred?  

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s 53, is the number, that have been approved for transfer.  And, yes, it’s our desire to reach arrangements with countries around the globe to safely transfer those individuals into conditions in which their ability to threaten the national security of the United States has been effectively mitigated.  And this is something that the Department of Defense, and the State Department in particular are hard at work on.  And our goal is not to get the population at the prison at Guantanamo Bay below 100, our goal is to get that prison population to zero.

And I would note that as of today there’s actually a new letter that I would recommend to your attention that was signed by 28 retired generals and admirals who called for the closing of the prison at Guantanamo Bay and described it as a “national security imperative.”  So I think that should be a pretty clear indication -- I was asked the question yesterday about Speaker Ryan’s disagreement with the administration about the need to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, and I pointed out that Speaker Ryan wasn’t just disagreeing with President Obama, he was also disagreeing with President Bush and five secretaries of state who served Presidents dating all the way back to President Nixon.

I think it’s also relevant to point out that Speaker Ryan is also disagreeing with 28 retired generals and admirals who know a little something about what it takes to protect the country.

Q    When I mentioned that number, 100, I was speaking to by year’s end.  I probably didn't make that clear.  Is it the President’s intention to have some of those transferees, those detainees transferred again before the end of this year?

MR. EARNEST:  I believe that it’s possible that there would be some additional transfers that would take place before the end of the year.  But there’s obviously a long process that's in place, including one that is prolonged based on congressional mandate that requires Congress to be informed 30 days before one of these transfers can move forward.  So that certainly, as I mentioned earlier, slows down the process.  And Congress has been quite interested in slowing down the process when, in fact, we would like to work with them to make that process more efficient.  They’ve declined to do that thus far.

But to more directly answer your question, I would anticipate that there will be additional transfers before year end.

Q    A couple more.  First on Keystone, you mentioned or the President mentioned today that gasoline prices, frankly, have already fallen in the years’ long review.  Is it the administration’s contention that they wouldn’t fall farther had this pipeline been approved? 

MR. EARNEST:  That is the conclusion of the report, that the impact on gas prices in the United States is negligible. 

Q    Last, I want to ask you about Kate’s law.  You had a chance to chat about this previously.  Senator Cruz has introduced a bill that would require a five-year minimum mandatory sentence for convicted illegal immigrants who commit felonies and then were deported and then returned.  Is there any reason the President wouldn’t back something like that for the interest and safety of the American people? 

MR. EARNEST:  I think there are a lot of good reasons not to back legislation that Senator Cruz has put forward.  But I haven’t looked -- to be fair to him, I haven’t looked at the proposal that he’s put forward.  But we’ll take a look at it and let you know. 

Q    Okay, broadly speaking, though, the idea that if you're convicted of a felony and you're deported, and then you come back and commit a crime, does that not sound like a good reason to have somebody like that locked up? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Kevin, in fact, the administrative actions that this administration has pursued to enhance accountability for our broken immigration system is actually to make sure that our enforcement efforts are focused on felons.  

Right now the policy that Senator Cruz has exacerbated by opposing comprehensive immigration reform actually bring us to the closest thing that we have to amnesty.  And if we actually want to be focused on enforcement and border security and on making sure that our communities are safe and that our efforts are focused on felons and not on families, then you wouldn’t just be a strong supporter of the executive actions that this President has instituted, you’d be a strong supporter of the comprehensive immigration bill that passed the United States Senate with strong bipartisan support a year or two ago.


Q    Just a quick follow-up on Gitmo first.  That was obviously one of the first things the President -- top of his priority list when he first got into the White House.

MR. EARNEST:  That's right. 

Q    What’s the current thinking on the ability to keep that promise given the Republicans’ control of Congress and their steadfast opposition to closing it?  Is it still -- do you still at this point at this late date see it as possible this President will leave office having closed Guantanamo?

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely, it’s still possible, and it’s still something that we are working very hard to accomplish.  The President agrees with these 28 retired generals and admirals that this is a national security imperative, one that the President identified, frankly, before he was elected to this office.  And the President is determined to -- despite the significant congressional obstacles that have been erected -- is determined to accomplish this goal.

Q    Will he need congressional approval to do it?  Is there a way to do it without Congress voting affirmatively to?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s certainly going to be easier if we can get Congress to cooperate in that effort.

Q    Understood.  But is it possible to do it without congressional approval?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t conducted my own review of the authority that's available to the President.

Q    You guys have been kicking around this issue for a long time.  What’s your -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, our preference is that we would like to work with Congress to try to get this done.

Q    It sounds like you're saying it’s possible without --

MR. EARNEST:  I certainly wouldn’t take off the table the ability of the President to use whatever authority is available to him to try to move closer to accomplishing this goal.  I don't say that with any specific action in mind.  I just say it to illustrate to you the determination that the President feels to try to get this done.

Q    And then on the Russian plane, Vladimir Putin, of course, has suspended Russian flights to Egypt while they try to determine what exactly happened.  He says he made that decision in consultation with Russian intelligence.  Is there any consideration of a similar move here? 

MR. EARNEST:  At this point, no.  At this point, the safety precautions that we believe are necessary are being implemented based on the decision that was announced by Secretary Johnson earlier today to put in place some interim precautionary measures at a handful of airports in the region.

Q    And are we working with Russian intelligence on this?  Is there -- how much cooperation is there in trying to determine the cause of what happened?

MR. EARNEST:  The only thing I can tell you is that U.S. officials have been in touch with both Egyptian and Russian officials about this incident and about the ongoing investigation. 

Q    Okay, thanks, Josh.


Q    So two topics, if I might.  To press you on the plane issue, there seems to be a disconnect between something that you said and just repeated and what the President said, which I want to see which one of you guys is right.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, that will be the easiest question I’ll answer all day.  (Laughter.) 

Q    So you keep saying that there’s no U.S. investigators that are part of this; that they’ve simply been in touch with investigators from Egypt and Russia.  The President seemed to indicate otherwise, saying, “We are going to spend a lot of time making sure our own investigators and our own intelligence community figures out exactly what’s going on before I make any definitive pronouncements.”  So does he expect that your own intelligence and your own investigators are going to be able to do that while they're not actually doing anything, while they're not actually participating in the investigation?  

MR. EARNEST:  Well, those are two different things.  I didn't say they weren’t doing anything.  But I did say that they were -- 

Q    You said they're not participating in the investigation other than being in touch, right?  So are they doing anything?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  (Laughter.) 

Q    What are they doing?  

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Mike, I don't mean to be too flippant about what is a serious matter.  The fact is, I’m just not going to be able to get into detail about the activities of our intelligence officers as they take steps and learn information that is critical to protecting the American public.

Q    Are you aware that Egyptian investigators have asked the United States for help in some of the processing of the evidence that they’ve recovered? 

MR. EARNEST:  My understanding, based on the latest briefing that I received on this, is that we had made an offer of assistance like what you've described, and there has not been a specific request made at this point by Egyptian officials for that kind of assistance.

Q    On anything, you don't think.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, certainly on the kind of assistance that you've just described.

Q    Okay.  And so just one last time here.  Without saying what they're doing, are investigators or intelligence officials involved in the process of -- without saying what it is -- 

MR. EARNEST:  I think you're making this too -- 

Q    Yes or no?

MR. EARNEST:  I think you're making it too complicated.  I acknowledged yesterday that our intelligence officers and our national security professionals were trying to learn everything they possibly could about what exactly happened.  That does not mean that they are working closely with Russian and Egyptian investigators.  Those guys are leading their own investigation.  That certainly isn’t appropriate -- or that certainly is appropriate.  This is a disaster that occurred on Egyptian soil and that affected hundreds of innocent Russian lives.  So it’s understandable that they are going to be most directly focused on this.

But I think you can also expect -- as I said yesterday and as the President said yesterday -- that U.S. national security officials, including our intelligence officials, are taking a close look at this and learning as much as we possibly can, particularly as it relates to information that could be useful to protecting the American public.  In fact, that's actually what led me to say yesterday that the possibility of terrorist involvement could not be ruled out.  And it’s also what led the President to say yesterday that a bomb could potentially be involved.

Q    Second, quick topic.  The head of the DEA has now echoed the FBI Director’s comments regarding the so-called Ferguson effect.  It’s now the second top administration law enforcement official to do that, to be in some conflict with the President on this topic.  Is there something going on here?  Is there some concern that the President has?  Has he expressed any -- other than what we’ve heard publicly, has he expressed any concern that several of his law enforcement -- top law enforcement officials are off the reservation on this question? 

MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t heard him say that.  Mr. Rosenberg, as you pointed out, is the second administration official to make that kind of claim without any evidence.  And the fact is the evidence does not support the claim that somehow our law enforcement officers all across the country are shirking their duties and failing to fulfill their responsibility to serve and protect the communities to which they're assigned.

So I guess you’d have to ask him exactly what point he’s trying to make.  You might also ask him if there’s any evidence to substantiate the claim that he’s made.

Q    I guess -- and I won’t belabor because other people have questions.  But I guess it is -- it seems somewhat surprising that you could imagine -- 

MR. EARNEST:  I was surprised he said it, too.

Q    But you could imagine expressing sort of surprise and then moving on if these were people outside of the administration.  These are people that directly work for the President and that often are called upon to speak for the President in their capacity -- in their various capacities.  So at some point, does the President haul them in and say, shut up?  Or whatever.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, first of all, they're independent law enforcement officers, and so that changes the nature of their relationship.  Yes, they're appointed by the President, but -- 

Q    In the course -- in terms of their prosecution of cases and that kind of thing, but they're part of the administration.  He appointed them.  

MR. EARNEST:  No doubt, no doubt.

Q    And so at what point does he say -- doesn't -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think your newspaper reported that the President had the opportunity to meet with the FBI Director last week where they talked about these issues.  And as I relayed to you, I’m not going to get into the details of their conversation.  But the President is certainly counting on Director Comey to play an important role in the ongoing public debate about criminal justice reform, about strengthening the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they're sworn to serve and protect, but also to engage in debates around encryption -- that there is a broader consideration that policymakers in this country have to make about balancing the national security and safety of the American people with the need to protect the civil liberties of the American people.

And Director Comey is somebody who brings a lot of experience to that debate, and the President is certainly counting on his participation in those deliberations.  These are difficult issues.  Director Comey is wrestling with them.  And I would anticipate that the President will continue to consult with him as the administration works through policy solutions to these significant challenges. 

Q    So he still has full confidence in both of them?

MR. EARNEST:  Absolutely.  Absolutely. 


Q    Getting back to Keystone, the President said throughout this process on several occasions that the main criteria for approving the project would be if the pipeline did not contribute to climate change.  And during some comments made by some senior administration officials this morning, State Department officials this morning -- and I think not just this morning, but in the latest environmental assessments of the pipeline -- it was stated that the project would not have an overall effect on emissions.  And Secretary Kerry said in his statement this morning that the main driving force behind his recommendation is that he didn't want to undermine the United States’ ability to lead the world on climate change.

So if the President’s, I guess, key determining factor on whether to approve this project was whether it was going to contribute to climate change, and that did not pan out, and the Secretary seems to be saying that this has to do with undermining our ability to lead the world, was this a PR move? 

MR. EARNEST:  No, it was not, Jim.  And I did want to -- 

Q    Can you explain some of these -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I do -- I differ with the premise of your question.  I noted in an earlier exchange that in the President’s speech that he delivered at Georgetown he said that, “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will absolutely be critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”  And the net effect of this project is not a substantial impact on gas prices or energy security or the U.S. economy, or even a direct impact on climate change, but the net effect is actually that it undermines the ability of the United States to continue to lead the international community to respond to this urgent challenge.

And even the sharpest critics of climate change policy in the past have acknowledged that the United States can't go this one alone; that we're going to need to persuade other countries -- to use our influence around the world to persuade other countries to take important steps to reduce carbon pollution.

So I think that's how I would answer your question.  And that's why the -- 

Q    That was not the stated criteria all along through this process.  

MR. EARNEST:  It was the stated criteria that the President -- when the President delivered a major environmental speech at Georgetown.

Q    He said it was whether the project would contribute to climate change.  And the determination of the State Department is that the pipeline would not have contributed to climate change. 

MR. EARNEST:  So I’ll read you another quote, Jim, just because I came prepared here.  

Q    So you must have thought that this question might come.

MR. EARNEST:  I did.  “As a policy matter, my government believes that we should judge this pipeline based on whether or not it accelerates climate change, or whether it helps the American people with their energy costs and their gas prices.”  The impact on energy costs and their gas prices is negligible, according to this report, and the fact is it would make it more difficult for the U.S. government to succeed in fighting the causes of climate change because it undermines our ability to persuade other countries around the world to join our effort.  

So again, the President laid this out -- 

Q    The President never said that the key determining factor was whether the project would contribute to climate change.

MR. EARNEST:  I never heard the President say that direct quote.  Maybe you have one there in front of you.  I’ve read you two direct quotes of what the President said that certainly substantiate both the results of the review and my explanation for their determination.

Q    Let me see if I can dig that up.  In the meantime, I wanted to ask you about the President’s comments about the bomb -- possible bomb on the plane, getting back to Michael’s question.  There are investigators on the case.  There are U.S. investigators on the case, correct?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what I will say is that there are U.S. national security officials that are using their capabilities to learn as much as they possibly can about this incident, and to understand what potential impact it could have on the safety and security of the American people.  And as a result of their efforts and as a result of what they have learned thus far, you saw that the Director of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, announced a series of interim steps at a handful of airports in the region that would be important to protecting the American traveling public.  And the Department of Homeland Security has already begun the work of implementing those steps.  

Q    And should U.S. travelers be concerned about flying to that region, to that part of the world, do you think?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we obviously always urge vigilance on the part of U.S. citizens, particularly when they’re traveling overseas.  But for advice about where it’s safe to travel and where it isn’t, and what precautions they should take, I’d encourage them to consult the State Department that has a website, where it’s organized by country, where you can take a look at any travel advisories that the U.S. government may have.  This is something that is regularly updated based on the information that’s collected by our national security professionals, and it’s routinely consistent with the advice that the State Department gives to State Department employees that are operating around the world.

Q    And just to get back to this comment that the President made.  I mean, I’m just going through the Google here as we’re talking, and he said on Colbert last year, “We’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change.  It could create a couple of thousand potential jobs in the initial construction, but we’ve got to measure that against whether or not it’s going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”  So I’m just wondering -- so you’re saying -- there’s obviously going to be a document, a transcript of this briefing.  You’re saying that the President did not make the stated goal of this process of determining whether or not -- 

MR. EARNEST:  Read the last sentence again.

Q    “We’ve got to measure that against whether or not it’s going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet that could be disastrous.”

MR. EARNEST:  And so we are engaged in an international effort to build a policy response that reduces carbon pollution and fights climate change.  And that’s not something that the United States can do alone.  If those are policies that we only implement in the United States, it will not have the desired effect of preventing a warming planet.  The only way that we’re going to succeed on this -- and this is something that our harshest critics themselves regularly acknowledge -- is that only way we’re going to be successful is if we can get the rest of the international community, including the largest economies of the world, to go along with us.  And the construction of this pipeline would undermine that effort.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  On Keystone, the President has consistently criticized both sides for over-hyping the significance of the pipeline.  But as we’ve just been discussing, it has now been rejected because of the symbolism of it.  And so those two things seem a little hard to reconcile, that on that one hand it’s overblown, but it’s also symbolically crucial.  Does the President see both of those things as being the case?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think, Sarah, the point that the President has tried to make is that we have heard outsized claims from advocates on both sides of this issue, frankly, about the true impact of this pipeline.  And that State Department spent years reviewing this project to try to determine the true impact.  

The fact is, despite the claims of advocates of the pipeline, it wouldn’t have much of an impact at all on gas prices.  It wouldn’t have much of an impact at all on energy security.  And the impact on the broader U.S. economy is 0.02 percent when it comes to GDP.  So that’s one side.  There are some on the side of those who oppose the pipeline who said that the pipeline itself would contribute significantly to climate change.  And again, based on the careful review that was done at the State Department, there’s reason to doubt that too.

But what there’s not reason to doubt and what the diplomatic experts at the State Department have concluded is that the ability of U.S. officials to make the case to other countries around the world that they can’t just continue to pursue business as usual and need to actually implement policy changes that will reduce carbon pollution would be undermined if the United States was just going to pursue business as usual. 

Look, this goes back to a basic tenet of this presidency.  The President’s campaign slogan in 2007 and 2008 wasn’t “stay the course,” it was “change you can believe in.”  And again, that’s part of what this is about.  One of the reasons that we have been able to make so much progress in just the last few years is because of our willingness to implement change.  So we’ve made tremendous progress in investing in renewable energy.  If we just sort of stayed the course and looked to develop additional sources of oil and gas in the United States and around the world, that would have been one option.  But by investing in renewable energy, we’re in a place where we have tripled the amount of energy that’s being produced in the United States by the wind, and increased the amount of energy that’s being produced by the sun twenty-fold, just since this President took office. 

The same is true when it comes to energy efficiency.  The President has made a series of important commitments to energy efficiency, both in terms of fuel standards for cars and trucks, but also when it comes to energy standards that are in place for home appliances and even for buildings.  And because of that commitment to efficiency, last year, in 2014, the United States actually used less oil and gas than we did as a country in 2008, despite the fact that our economy has grown in that period of time.  Those kinds of investments are worthwhile and would not have been possible had the President not been willing to institute some changes.

I’ll close by saying that this is not unique to the energy sector.  There’s a been a willingness to take on special interests when it comes to Wall Street reform.  And we now have a financial system that is more stable, and never again will taxpayers be on the hook for bailing out a big bank because of risky bets that they’ve made.  The President got a lot of criticism from the cable companies for weighing in on the net neutrality debate.  But ultimately, the President was speaking his mind.  And that willingness to roil the special interests with a goal of trying to advance the President’s agenda is, frankly, the central premise of his presidency.

Q    So a follow-up to that, and then one other.  If Shell hadn’t pulled out of the Arctic, would the decision to approve Arctic drilling have been symbolically problematic in that same way that approving Keystone would have been?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the fact is the well that Shell was drilling in the Arctic earlier this year was actually a lease that was acquired by Shell under the Bush administration.  And this administration recently announced steps to cancel lease sales in the Arctic in 2016 and 2017.  So again, I think our policy as it relates to the Arctic is entirely consistent with the decision that was announced today.  

Q    And then stepping back, going to Paris, kind of big picture.  Does the President see himself as trying to save the world with what he’s working on there?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what the President sees himself trying to do is to continue to mobilize the international community to respond to the urgent threat that is posed by climate change.  And I think this is one of those situations where the unique role of the United States and the international community comes into play.  The United States -- given the size of our economy, given the stability of our economy, and given our influence around the globe -- is uniquely positioned to convince other countries to take significant steps to cut carbon pollution.  And those countries were only willing to make those commitments once they saw that the United States wasn’t just talking the talk, that we were willing to walk the walk.  

And I think this is sort of the latest evidence of our willingness to walk the walk.  And that’s not going to prevent the oil companies from squealing and the Washington politicians that they own from squealing even louder.  But it’s not going to intimidate the President as he makes a decision that he believes is in the best interest of the country and the best interest of our economy, and the best interest of the health of our children, but also in the best interest of the planet.


Q    Josh, can you explain -- I mean, this was a permit application from a corporation.  Why did the President feel compelled to come out and speak to cameras?

MR. EARNEST:  I think all of you had the expectation that that’s what he would probably do.  And given the law that’s on the books for consideration of these kinds of projects, it’s presidential authority that’s used to determine whether or not these projects move forward.  Now, there’s an executive order in place that delegates that authority to the State Department, but given the intense scrutiny and the frequency with which he’d both discussed and been asked about this project in the past, it made sense that he would be involved in announcing the decision.

Q    Can I ask -- the President used language saying this has essentially gotten blown out of proportion, saying it had gotten over-inflated, hyped up.  He’s elevating it further, though, by speaking about it from the White House.  So do you wonder whether that will make him more vulnerable to the claims this is further politicization of the issues since he made a pinch for climate and made a pitch for infrastructure?

MR. EARNEST:  As I mentioned earlier, the President is not at all worried about claims from the oil companies and the D.C. politicians that they own that somehow he’s done the wrong thing here.  He’s used to that criticism and that's not going to intimidate him or prevent him from taking additional steps that he believes are necessary to look out for the best interests of the country, to look out for the best interests of our economy, to look out for the best interests of the health of our children, and to look out for the best interests of the planet.

Q    With all due respect, it was just a few Fridays ago when the President made the decision to put 50 Special Operators on the ground in Syria and we did not hear from him.  Many of us in the press did expect to.  So on this particular issue, it seems very charged already, and for the President to decide to come out on it, it seems to be that’s perhaps lending some credence to those who say this is just about politics, it wasn’t a policy decision.

MR. EARNEST:  Margaret, I don't think that the amount of politics that had been injected into the situation would have been in any way diminished if somehow the Secretary of State had spoken instead of the President.

Q    Also, the Supreme Court I guess has said that it will hear pending appeals from groups in seven different states in regard to this ACA mandate on contraception.  Can you tell us your reaction to that?

MR. EARNEST:  We continue to have confidence in the power of the legal argument that we have made at the circuit court level that the policy we have in place appropriately balances the need for millions of Americans to have access to birth control while also protecting the right of religious freedom that is protected in our Constitution.  And we have confidence in the power of those arguments based on our own consideration of the arguments, but also based on the fact that there are seven appeals court judges that actually have sided with us and ruled in favor of the administration that the policy that we have in place appropriately strikes that balance.

So obviously the Supreme Court will have an opportunity to consider the merits of this argument as well, but given the track record of our success in making this argument through the court system we've got confidence in the argument that we'll be able to make before the Supreme Court.

Q    That it will withstand the scrutiny?

MR. EARNEST:  The Supreme Court will have to make their own decision, but we certainly have confidence in the persuasive power of the argument that we've made.


Q    A quick question on TPP.  The calendar is looking quite tight with the long congressional recess next summer and so on.  What are you saying to Democrats who --

MR. EARNEST:  All those French workweeks?  (Laughter.)  That's Jeb Bush’s line, not mine.  

Q    What are you saying to Democrats who would rather vote on this during a lame duck session?

MR. EARNEST:  Our view is that there’s no reason that Congress should wait more than a year to consider an agreement that was made public yesterday.  There is ample time, based on the process that is codified in the trade promotion authority legislation for the public to consider the details of this agreement and for members of Congress to consider the details of this agreement.  And we hope that they will obviously follow the guidelines of the law and carefully consider the details of the agreement.

I noted earlier that some people refer to trade promotion authority legislation as fast track legislation.  But a 90-day period before the President can sign an agreement that he has already acknowledged that he intends to sign I think would be an indication that Congress’s definition of fast is a little bit different than most people’s.

So the point is there will be ample opportunity for the American public to consider this agreement, and ample opportunity for members of Congress to consider the details of the agreement and for Congress to pass the agreement in less than a year.

Q    Just to go back to aviation security measures you’ve mentioned a couple of times.  I wonder if you can perhaps provide some clarity on what we're talking about.  Secretary Johnson didn’t give too many details, as I understand.  Where are we talking about?  How long are they going to be in place?  Are TSA people going to be deployed to the region?  

MR. EARNEST:  Let me say there are a few details I can give you on this.  We're talking about fewer than 10 airports, all of which are in the region.  The kinds of measures that Secretary Johnson has ordered are things like expanded screening that's applied to items that are taken onboard the aircraft.  The precautionary measures also include updated airport assessments that are conducted in conjunction with international partners.

There are other forms of assistance that the United States can provide to airport authorities that can be useful in better securing those facilities.  But the details of that kind of assistance is not something that I can discuss from here.  I can tell you that these steps are being taken in airport facilities where the United States already has a cooperative relationship with the airport authorities, so it's not necessary for us to go and sort of institute these measures from the ground up.  We can enhance the measures that are already in place to ensure the safety of Americans who may be traveling overseas.

Q    Why was this decision taken now?  Quite apart from the fact of what happened to the aircraft, has there been a revised assessment of the capability of actors in the region which has prompted this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think, Andrew, this is obviously happening quite quickly and this is a specific reaction to the information that we have learned about this incident in the Sinai Peninsula.  Secretary Johnson has acknowledged that these are steps that he’s ordered out of an abundance of caution.  There is no specific threat -- or these measures are not being taken in response to a specific threat to the homeland.  But it is the prudent exercise of an abundance of caution given the information that U.S. officials have learned about this airline disaster in the Sinai Peninsula.

Q    Is it you’ve taken this decision because you're looking at what’s happened and that has made you believe that certain actors have more capability than previously thought or pose a greater risk than you previously thought?

MR. EARNEST:  No, I wouldn't say it that way.  I think this is just -- in some ways, it's less than that.  This is just a prudent response in the exercise of an abundance of caution based on information that has been learned about this possible terrorist attack in the Sinai Peninsula.  And so this is just a series of steps that the Secretary of Homeland Security believes should be taken out of an abundance of caution based on what we know about what might have happened aboard that Metrojet Flight 9268.


Q    Josh, on the John Kerry meeting this morning, did President Obama know in advance the decision that Secretary Kerry came to tell him about?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the State Department has obviously been conducting this review for a number of years now and the White House has received periodic updates on that process, and the President has typically been briefed about those periodic updates.  So the first time that the President had the opportunity to consider the final determination by the Secretary of State was this morning in his meeting with him.  But based on the periodic updates that the White House has received over the years, I don't believe that the President was at all surprised by the outcome.

Q    Well, does that mean the fix was in for President Obama to embrace Kerry’s decision?

MR. EARNEST:  No, it does not.  It means that the State Department did as they should, which is, based on long-established precedent, conducted a thoughtful and rigorous review of this particular infrastructure project; they made a determination based on their conclusions about the national interest.  The President was regularly updated on the progress of that review, and that's why the President wasn’t surprised by the outcome.

Q    But didn’t he need more than an hour to decide whether to embrace the decision from State?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, based on the periodic updates that had been received, I think the President had a good idea about the direction that this was headed.

Q    Have you got any reaction to the response from Speaker Ryan, who not only called the decision “sickening,” but he said that it goes against a bipartisan majority in Congress and the will of the American people?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, at least the reference to the word “sickening” I think is Exhibit A in the case that I would make to you that people are over-inflating, to use the President’s words, the significance of this report.

But look, there is no denying that many members of Congress, including some Democrats, don't agree with the President on this.  But the President and his team have obviously thought about this for quite some time.  The State Department carefully considered it.  And given the responsibility that the President feels for continuing to lead the international community to take steps to fight climate change, the President believes that this is the right call.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  Following up on Andrew’s question, if you can drill down a little bit.  You said these are airports in the region where the DHS measures apply.  Are you talking North Africa, Middle East?  How would you more narrowly define region?

MR. EARNEST:  I probably wouldn’t more narrowly define it than by describing it as the region in which the Sinai Peninsula is located.  

Q    And then back to pipelines.  Keystone was not the only pipeline application awaiting an approval through the process you described via the President; there’s also the Enbridge Alberta Clipper pipeline.  Can we read anything into where that decision is going to go based on the arguments and conclusions announced today? 

MR. EARNEST:  It would be Exhibit B that the decision around the Keystone pipeline has been overhyped.  I can say that I can't recall ever having heard of the pipeline whose name you just recited.  (Laughter.)  So I don't know where that -- whether or not there is an ongoing process or not to consider that project.  If there, is I’m confident that it will be evaluated consistent with the kinds of standards that are described by the law.

You do rightfully point out that there are thousands of miles of pipeline that have been built inside the United States since President Obama took office.  In fact, the southern segment of the Keystone pipeline was built in the last couple of years while President Obama has been in office.  So that argument that we're making here is very specific, but it does not mean that no more pipeline will be constructed in this country over the next 15 months.

Q    And then lastly, opponents of the Keystone decision say that this will lead to more oil on rail.  And of course, the administration has acknowledged that that is a likely effect.  There have been safety problems with oil on rail.  And the President recently signed legislation that will delay a safety component for railroads to comply with.  How does the President view that effect of the Keystone decision?  Is it something that concerns him? 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what you described as a fact is actually the source of significant doubt based on the analysis that was done by the State Department.  The State Department said that the exploitation of those resources in Western Canada would likely only be economically feasible if the price of oil was between $65 and $75 a barrel.  That's the way that the project could be economically justified.

And the fact is, right now you can buy a barrel of oil for less than $50.  And the longer term -- at least the near and midterm projections for the price of oil continue to foresee prices at or around that level.  So there is significant doubt about whether or not this moves forward.

That being said, I think the President’s commitment to the safe transport of the materials like oil is significant.  And I know that there was recent regulatory action around improving the safety of some of the rail cars that are used to transport oil within the United States.  And that's consistent with the priority that the President and his broader administration have placed on rail safety.

Fred, I’ll give you the last one.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  A couple things.  First is that today there was a report that -- from a FOIA -- that showed Hillary Clinton did sign an NDA agreement when she first became Secretary of State, acknowledging it was her, based on the training she received, determination to know what is and is not classified.  Do you think that undermines her assertion that nothing was marked classified?

MR. EARNEST:  No, because I believe that investigators have found that nothing was marked classified.

Q    However, she’s supposed to know based on what she had signed, the NDA agreement. 

MR. EARNEST:  I can't speak to any documents that she may have signed.  You can check with the State Department on that.  But I don't think there’s anything that undermines her argument because the facts that have been learned about this matter actually substantiate the argument that she’s been making for a number of months now.

Q    And on the other issue, and this has actually come up on the presidential race a little bit with Chris Christie and Jeb Bush talking about addiction issues.  And also going back a week ago, we had the release of about 6,000 prisoners.  There have been some law enforcement groups that objected to that release.  What they’ve cited is that there is an increase in opioids, an increase in heroin sales, and that they have a lot fears that putting some of those people back into society, that they will return to that.  Do you think that would be a concern at a time when we do have this opioid and heroin crisis?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Fred, the President has had the opportunity to speak on a number of occasions now about the need for our society to confront the challenges posed by those who have an addiction to opioids and to heroin.  And this is a problem that is plaguing communities large and small all across the country.  And the President did what I thought was a quite powerful event in West Virginia talking about how communities in that state have been significantly and negatively affected by the presence of opioids.  And there are a number of steps that can be taken -- some of them law enforcement, but many of them not -- that can try to address this problem. 

And as it relates to formerly incarcerated individuals, the President had the opportunity just earlier this week to travel to Newark to take a look at some community-based programs that are doing some really important work to help individuals who are being released from prison successfully reintegrate into society.  And some of the assistance that is offered is substance abuse treatment.  

And there are a number of facilities across the country where inmates can try to be treated for those kinds of addictions even while they're behind bars.  Those are the kinds of things that our society is going to have to think broadly about as we confront this significant challenge.

I’ll do a week ahead, and then let you all get started on your weekend.  

On Monday, the President will host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.  The President looks forward to discussing with the Prime Minister regional security issues, including implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action to peacefully and verifiably prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon and countering Tehran’s destabilizing activities.  The President also looks forward to discussing Israel’s relations with the Palestinians, the situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, and the need for the genuine advancement of a two-state solution.  Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is a demonstration of the deep and enduring bonds between the United States and Israel, as well as the unprecedented security cooperation, including our close consultations to further enhance Israel’s security.

On Monday evening, the President will deliver remarks at an Organizing for Action event, and then will deliver remarks and answer questions at an Organizing for Action Dinner.

On Tuesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.  

On Wednesday, the President will host a breakfast to honor veterans and their families on Veterans Day.  The Vice President will also attend.  And afterward, the President will visit Arlington National Cemetery to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony and deliver remarks.

On Thursday, the President will award Captain Florent A. Groberg, U.S. Army retired, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry.  That event will take place in the East Room.

On Friday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.  

And on Saturday, the President will depart for Turkey, the Philippines and Malaysia for his weeklong trip to attend the G20 at Turkey and a handful of multilateral meetings in Asia. 

So next week should be interesting.  

Francesca, do you have a last thing?

Q    Yes, I have a question on the week ahead.


Q    On Monday, it didn't sound like there’s going to be a joint press conference.  Am I understanding that correctly? 

MR. EARNEST:  I do not believe that there will be news conference on Monday.  There will be an opportunity for you to hear from both leaders while Prime Minister Netanyahu is here, but not a news conference.

Q    Do you know -- are you able to say why there won’t be a news conference?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not able to say why, but we can look into it for you.  Thanks, guys.  

2:59 P.M. EST