Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Seattle, Washington
2:14 P.M. PDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Good afternoon. Welcome aboard Air Force One en route to Seattle, Washington. I actually don’t have any announcements off the top, so I'm happy to go right to your questions -- which I presume will be mostly on the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. (Laughter.)
Q Who else has the President spoken to today after the Brexit?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, I can tell you that the President, as he mentioned, spoke with Prime Minister Cameron. Obviously, in that conversation, they discussed the referendum. And the President made clear that despite the British people's desire to leave the EU, that the U.S. special relationship with the United Kingdom will remain unchanged. Both of the leaders highlighted that the United Kingdom's membership in NATO and contributions to NATO remain intact.
And the President did express regret about the Prime Minister's decision to step aside. Obviously the Prime Minister has been a trusted friend, trusted advisor to this President, and a good partner in facing a host of issues around the globe. President Obama also feels that Prime Minister Cameron is deeply committed to democratic values and has a strong record to show for that over his time in office.
At the same time, the EU will remain an indispensable partner of the United States. And both Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama, in that conversation, talked about their shared goals to promote stability, stimulate growth, and foster democratic ideals in Europe and beyond. Obviously, there will be an orderly process of negotiating the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union. And as leaders from around the world have expressed today, that process will be done in a way that ensures financial stability, continued investment, and economic prosperity.
The President also had a chance to speak with Chancellor Merkel this morning. Both of them together expressed regret over the decision yesterday, but also expressed respect. This was a decision that was up to the British people, and they made their voice heard. And both Chancellor Merkel and President Obama acknowledged that.
The Chancellor and the President also spoke about making sure that the G7 partners work closely on this transition, and they made a point to say that this will surely be on the agenda for the NATO Summit in Poland in a few weeks.
The other call that I'll mention that the President had this morning was with Secretary Jack Lew, Treasury Secretary. The Secretary briefed the President on the latest developments on the international economy and also Secretary Lew's conversations with his counterparts around the world. Both the President and the Secretary reiterated their shared goals of focusing on stability, security, and economic growth both in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and around the world.
Q How worried should Americans be about the financial turmoil that we saw today?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, I think it's important to note a few things, Roberta -- that the UK and EU policymakers have sufficient tools to support economic and financial stability. And European resilience to economic shocks has improved significantly in recent years. As I think the Treasury Secretary relayed, he's been in touch with his counterparts around the world, and we're going to continue to consult and cooperate as appropriate, underscoring that this only reinforces the importance of all countries meeting their G20 commitments to use fiscal, monetary, and structural tools to strengthen their economies.
I'm happy to talk to you about where we see the U.S. economy right now. As you know, the U.S. economy has substantial domestic strength. For example, we've seen strong consumer spending and unemployment insurance claims near the lowest levels in decades. But there's no doubt that the vote has heightened uncertainty in financial markets, and that underscores the importance of continuing to work with both the UK and other partners to foster orderly markets and support economic growth, while making sure the departure from the United Kingdom is done in an orderly way -- the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union is done in an orderly way.
Q Are we going to see the President sort of give a message to the American people along those lines about what's being done to sort of help with this orderly transition and give them this sort of reassurance about the stability of the U.S. economy?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, like I said, the Treasury Department is actually in close contact with our G7 and international counterparts. Secretary Lew, I understand, participated in a conference call earlier today with the G7 counterparts, and has been and will remain in close contact with the major economies. Obviously, the President had a chance to speak with Secretary Lew earlier today.
And when it comes to the domestic economy, I think it's important to put where we are in some context. As you know, we are now experiencing the longest stretch of private sector job growth in our nation's history. To date, our economy has added 14.5 million private sector jobs over 75 straight months. In the past year alone, our businesses have added 2.3 million jobs. Rising home prices have brought millions of homeowners back up above water. Health care prices have risen at their lowest rate in 50 years since the Affordable Care Act became law. The budget deficit has been cut by three-quarters.
So the President has a strong record of stewardship over the American economy. And his focus on that isn’t going to change.
Q Eric, how long do you expect the type of market fluctuations like we saw today, the Dow falling 600 points, how long do you expect those to last? And does the Treasury Department or any part of the U.S. government need to take steps right now to shore up the economy?
MR. SCHULTZ: Justin, as you know, we don’t comment on individual market movements, so I'm not going to do that here today. I will say, generally speaking, obviously the Secretary of the Treasury Department is closely monitoring this. He's briefing the President as appropriate. And he's also working with his counterparts across the world to make sure that the President's view of stability, security and prosperity help guide decisions in the coming weeks and months.
Q Did the President screw this one up? He came to the UK a few months ago. There was a lot of criticism that he was an outsider coming in. Similarly, we didn’t hear from him in the week before Brexit to kind of lobby what was a very narrow vote. Could President Obama have done more or done something differently?
MR. SCHULTZ: Justin, you put it so eloquently. (Laughter.) I will say that the trip earlier this year to England was an opportunity for the President to speak out on this. Every time he spoke out on this, though, he made clear that this was a decision for the British people -- and I think that's important. He also made clear that because of the closeness of our countries, and specifically the interconnectedness of our economies, that he wanted to speak out on this, that he had views not just because he thought the United Kingdom staying in the European Union was good for the United Kingdom and for Europe, but because he thought it was the in the United States' interest as well.
And, by the way, he wasn’t alone. He joined every Western leader who also thought that that was the right thing to do. And leaders of large international financial institutions also thought that was the right thing to do. One could imagine a scenario where the vote last night happened and the President hadn’t taken that opportunity to speak out, I think you'd be asking me a much different question about why didn’t the President do what he could. So, again --
Q I was sort of asking that question. Why wasn’t the President more vocal in the week before Brexit? I mean, I asked Josh multiple times, I think my colleagues did, as well, why the President wasn’t out there in the final days.
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, again, the President was in the United Kingdom earlier this year making this precise case. And at the time, I know the Prime Minister and his team were grateful for the President for doing that. They expressed appreciation both publicly and privately to the President for his remarks during his trip. But at the end of the day, Justin, this was a decision for the British people to make. The President respects that.
Q Eric, you talked about Cameron and the President having expressed regret over his resignation. Is that more because of their kind of personal relationship? Or is that because he feels as though that the situation was tenable for Cameron in the UK?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Darren, I'd say that you are right, they have a -- Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama have a very good, close working relationship, and I think's that borne out of the special relationship between our two countries. Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama have worked very closely together on a host of challenges around the world. That includes a Counter-ISIL Coalition. That includes their work together in NATO. Britain is one of the countries that is committed to -- 2 percent of their GDP is defense spending. They've lived up to their commitment. The United Kingdom and the United States have a robust intelligence-sharing relationship that has proved to be beneficial for law enforcement and national security officials on both sides of the Atlantic. We obviously have a close bilateral trade relationship. Our economies are intertwined. And there's infinite cultural exchanges that happen all the time.
So the President does feel a close relationship to the Prime Minister. But all of those links which I've just outlined are not going to change last night's vote or the Prime Minister's decision to step aside. The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom transcends any one or two particular leaders. It also transcends political parties. So that relationship is going to be enduring, and I think that was reflected in the President's statements that we released earlier.
Q Can I ask, when the President was in the UK in April, he said that the Brits would go to the back queue in terms of trade agreements with the U.S. if they left Brexit. Does that still hold? Or are we rethinking that because our economies are so intertwined?
MR. SCHULTZ: Greg, what I'd say about this is that the economic rationale for T-TIP remains strong, and nothing that happened last night changes that rationale. We're going to continue to work with the EU to conclude those negotiations by the end of the year. We are right now evaluating the impact of last night's decision on T-TIP, but we're going to be engaging our counterparts both in Brussels and in London on this. I think that helps underscore what I said earlier and what the President has said, which is this is all the more reason for an orderly sequence to the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union.
Q But wait a minute, just to explore that a little bit. He said that Britain would move to the end of the queue, but you're not saying that right now, are you?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, I don’t have -- obviously the President stands by what he said, and I don’t have an update to our position. All I was saying is that it's going to take some time to assess what the impact of last night's decision was on the
T-TIP negotiations. The T-TIP negotiations continue in earnest. We said we wanted those to conclude by the end of the year. And so those are negotiations housed out of the office of the United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman. So if you have details about where those negotiations stand, you should check in with that office.
Q Eric, another big theme of the visit in April was some controversial comments by London Mayor Boris Johnson. He's now potentially in line to become England's next Prime Minister with the resignation of David Cameron. If that were to transpire, is he somebody the President can work with after what he said about him?
MR. SCHULTZ: Justin, I've seen some news reports on that, but I think it's far too early for me to speculate on the British domestic politics on how that goes. As I understand it, it's not even clear how this succession will work. They might be able to do this via a party conference in a few months, or they might need to hold elections.
Q Maybe I'll get you to speculate on politics here. The Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, was in Scotland today, and he said that the Brexit was basically a vindication of what he's been talking about and also has some parallels to the campaign that he thinks he's running. Is that a concern for the President and Democrats, that this sort of populous sentiment is going to lead to a surprise victory by Donald Trump? And similarly, are you worried that the sort of economic ramifications make it harder for you to prosecute your case about the President's economic success?
MR. SCHULTZ: I'm going to leave it to the pundits and all of you to assess if a domestic economic referendum in Europe, how that -- what that says about a domestic political election here in the United States in five months. So I will leave it to all of you to sort of assess if there's any tea leaf reading that's possible.
In terms of the President’s record, I don't think we're going to have any problem making that case. As I mentioned, we are now in the longest stretch of private sector job growth in our nation’s history. The budget deficit has been cut by three-quarters. For middle-class families, wage growth is accelerating. Wages have risen at an annual rate of over 3 percent so far in 2016. The United States is less reliant on foreign oil than we have been in nearly three decades. Manufacturing has added 832,000 jobs over the past 75 months and has experienced the fastest streak of manufacturing job growth since the 1990s.
So the President is enormously proud of his record over the past seven years. And that's definitely a case we'll be making through the fall.
Q And on the summit, what indication do you have that the President is going to be focusing on entrepreneurship in the post-presidency? He spent a lot of time here. He seemed to be really invested in the young people. He had a long dinner on Friday night -- last night, rather. What indication do you have that this is going to be something that he focuses on in the post-presidency?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, I think you can tell by observing the President today that this is something that's very close to his heart. He believes that entrepreneurship is an American value. It's one that demonstrates our strength. And that's why he’s so proud to showcase this.
This was actually born out of one of the President’s first significant speeches while President, back in 2009 in Cairo. And he sees this as an important opportunity for a host of reasons, one of which is these are young people solving problems. And he gave a few examples today in his remarks. But we talk a lot about the challenges around the world, in some unstable places, and places that aren't on as sure footing as we’d like. And the President believes that one of the ways to dig out of those holes is economic prosperity.
And when people have a life’s work that is also benefiting the community that they’re in, that's a good thing. I think that's why the President is so focused on it. I will also say that this is a commitment shared by the President’s counterparts around the world. As you know, a few weeks ago when Prime Minister Modi was in the White House -- was in Washington, they announced that the next Global Entrepreneurship Summit would be in India. And so this is something that the President is gratified is not going to stop when he leaves office.
Let me give you a few examples of why the President feels that this type of effort is so instrumental to our global development agenda. Small and medium-sized enterprises generate 78 percent of jobs in low-income countries and are particularly important sources of livelihoods in poor and rural communities. In fact, today over 341 million youth in developing countries are unemployed, and another 536 million are under-employed. So creating jobs for these young people is going to be one of the best ways to not only tackle poverty, but also bring stability to some of these areas.
The last point I'll make on this is the point of the summit today -- and actually, Mark Zuckerberg touched on this -- connectivity. When the President has the opportunity to connect someone with a smart idea with someone who has the resources to fund it along with people to make it happen, that connectivity sometimes takes a convening power like we see the President of the United States have. So absent that convening power, sometimes those entities don't get connected. That's why the President is so encouraged by what he saw this week.
Q On the national security aspects of the Brexit, you talked about how the President was briefed by Secretary Lew. But I'm wondering whether he was also briefed by any members of his national security team about what this would mean for NATO, and all those sort of aspects of it.
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. So last night the President was at a dinner with some of the leaders of the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Also at that dinner was his National Security Advisor Susan Rice, so she was able to keep him up to date in real time as anything determinative came in.
Q What consideration was given to changing the President’s schedule today in light of the remarkable events?
MR. SCHULTZ: There was no change to the President’s schedule today.
Q Was any consideration, though -- what consideration was given to changing his schedule?
MR. SCHULTZ: The President -- well, I should say there was no change to the President’s public schedule, because, as I mentioned, he did speak with Prime Minister Cameron --
Q I'm talking about the public schedule.
MR. SCHULTZ: So the President felt like this was a worthy endeavor to be here. I just went through some of the sort of global aspects of why we think supporting entrepreneurship is important. And again, he had a chance to both speak with Prime Minister Cameron and Chancellor Merkel. He had a chance to read out those conversations to all of you in the opening of the remarks and also put last night’s developments into some context, which I think he did.
Q There’s been a renewed call for Scotland to now leave the United Kingdom. They voted heavily to stay in the EU. Obviously the rest of the UK did not. The President spoke at the time about the importance of a united United Kingdom. Does that still hold true, or does the President think that Scotland should reconsider in light of what happened yesterday?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have any updated position from the President for you on this. I think his comments the last time he addressed this still stand.
Q It seems like the President has been talking a lot lately about sort of fear caused by globalization, terrorism, immigration policy. Is there more he can do -- after Orlando, after this Brexit, after the Supreme Court ruling -- is there more he can do to sort of calm people?
MR. SCHULTZ: You’ve grouped a lot of episodes in there, Greg, so let me --
Q well, the same things seem to come up after each one, which is why I grouped them together.
MR. SCHULTZ: Fair question. Let me see what I can -- how I can respond. I think that the President has spoken out about this theme. He has said that when there’s instability and some unpredictability in the world that some people have an impulse to cower and to back away and to isolate themselves. The President believes that's never the right approach, that we live in an interconnected global economy. We also live in the greatest country on Earth. And as the President made remarks -- I'm going to mix up my days, but I think it was yesterday now in the Briefing Room -- that one of America’s greatest strengths is the diversity of our people.
We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants are our teachers, our neighbors, our doctors, our firefighters, our police officers. And he believes that diversity is not just an American value, it's a defining characteristic of why we are the greatest country on Earth. So the President isn't going to shy away from making that case. You heard him make that case in light of the Supreme Court ruling yesterday.
The other episodes you mentioned are different fact patterns. In light of Orlando and in light of the threat we face by violent extremists, some have called for more isolation. The President doesn’t believe that that's the answer either. He obviously wants to do everything in his power to protect and shore up our homeland security, but at the end of the day, if we start to alienate certain populations, that's going to be counterproductive. That not only feeds the propaganda of those who wish to do us harm, it also alienates the most vulnerable populations who are being targeted to commit this violence.
Q Is the President going to hit the campaign trail and talk about some of these issues that are obviously very political here and overseas?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think -- well, you’ll have an opportunity to hear the President at some campaign events later this evening, so you’ll have a chance to hear the President’s take. I believe that -- going back to Justin’s question and Greg’s question -- that, yes, that clearly we are having a debate in this country about a lot of these issues, and the President isn't going to hesitate to make his case. I think you heard him do that in the context of national security proposals that he thought we're misguided. You heard him do that in terms of economic policies that he thinks are misguided. So I do think you’ll hear the President make the case.
Q Any idea when?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, you’ll have an opportunity tonight to hear the President talk about what he thinks is at stake in this election. But I don't have any additional events to preview right now.
Q Does he worry at all that that case is not being heard, in other words, that he’s not sort of penetrating the debate and the discussion? Or do you feel like it is?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't think there’s a lot of evidence to that. I think the President feels that some of these questions are fundamental to the identity of our country, and so whether it's the economic case -- and I don't know if you all saw that Speaker Ryan released a tax plan today, which essentially codified the Republican Party beliefs that tax cuts should go to the wealthy and the middle class should pay the price. Or if it's on national security issues where the President believes that the best thing we can do is really work with our partners and work with the American people to make sure that we keep our homeland safe, and to make sure that we're doing everything we can on the international scene to degrade and ultimately defeat those who wish to do us harm.
The President assembled a coalition of 66 partners, a coalition that was -- with deep representation in the Arab world, because he believes that the fundamental way to root out terrorism and to root out violent extremism is to make sure that we're more inclusive, and to make sure that we not only do everything we can to go after the terrorists, but also to make sure that we respect our values at the same time. And that means not going after vulnerable populations or vulnerable minorities in the United States. That's not an American value. That's not something we believe in here.
Q There was pretty violent flooding in West Virginia. More than a dozen people died. I'm wondering if the President has been briefed on what federal resources are being deployed there.
MR. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Justin, for bringing that up. We have seen the extreme flooding in West Virginia. Our thoughts and prayers go to the families and communities affected. And we are very much focused on the response on the ground. FEMA, through its regional office in Pennsylvania, is closely monitoring the severe flooding and is working closely with state emergency managers and local officials in West Virginia.
As of now, there have not been any requests for federal assistance. However, as part of FEMA’s forward-leaning posture, they have deployed teams to West Virginia to provide support to state and local officials on the disaster declaration process, to help them work through that process, and to assist state and local officials on assessing the damages and impact to these communities. So we're going to continue to learn -- to be forward to make sure that they’re getting the resources they need.
Q And just to put a finer point on the scheduling questions, first, do we expect the President to touch on Brexit again tonight in his conversations with donors? And secondly, segue into perhaps the week ahead if nobody else has anything, but people might -- can you rule out whether the President will do his first campaign event with Hillary Clinton next week? Or is that still a possibility?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have a preview of the President’s remarks tonight for you, but I think I wouldn't expect anything additional than what he had to offer earlier today. On the event with Secretary Clinton, that's obviously something the President looks forward to. We haven't yet nailed that date down in the books yet, but as soon as we do we'll let you know.
Q Is it possible it could be next week?
MR. SCHULTZ: As soon as that's nailed down we'll let you know.
Q Did any of these political topics come up even in passing in his conversation with his pretty good pal, David Cameron?
MR. SCHULTZ: The President has spoken before -- you mean our domestic politics?
MR. SCHULTZ: The President has spoken before that people around the world pay close attention to American politics. So our domestic campaign season has come up in conversation with foreign leaders. I think that most recently happened at the G7, which we were at earlier this year. I don't know if it came up in the conversation this morning with Prime Minister Cameron.
Q Week ahead?
MR. SCHULTZ: Happy to, Roberta.
On Monday, the President will welcome the 2015 WNBA champions, the Minnesota Lynx, to the White House to honor the team and their championship victory.
On Tuesday, the President will attend meetings at the White House.
And on Wednesday, the President will travel to Canada for the North American Leaders Summit, where he will meet with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, and President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico. The summit is further recognition of the value of a more integrated North America to advance the security and prosperity of the continent. It also highlights the importance of continuing to strengthen the bilateral and trilateral ties between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
While in Ottawa, the President will also address a joint session of the Parliament of Canada.
On Thursday and Friday, the President will hold meetings at the White House.
Q Thank you.
2:43 P.M. PDT