Press Briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, 6/27/16
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:45 P.M. EDT
MR. SCHULTZ: A full house. I'm sorry to keep you waiting. That's the last thing I'd like to do on this Monday afternoon. But I actually don't have any announcements at the top, so I'm happy to start with your questions.
Q Thank you, Eric. So with all the economic turmoil following the decision to exit the EU, is it important for Great Britain to begin making its transition now out of the EU quickly?
MR. SCHULTZ: Kevin, what we have said is that this will be a process for the EU to work out with the UK. I understand that the UK will need to file its Article 50 before that process can commence. But what we expect is for there to be an orderly process. And I understand that the UK will need to trigger that Article 50 as the sort of first starting point for that process to commence.
Q At this stage, it looks like it may not happen until the fall. With all that's going on in the markets, is that too late?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, what we have said is that that’s going to have to be a process and a decision -- timeline for the UK to work out with the EU. We're going to remain engaged and we're going to watch it closely, but those are decisions that are going to be principally made by those two governments. And again, our expectation and our priority is on making sure it's an orderly process, it's organized, it's transparent, and as the leadership of both the EU and the UK work out that process, our expectation is that they share those goals as well.
Q So with the Supreme Court granting a reprieve today of the former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell, did the Court make it easier for officials to I guess sell access to their office?
MR. SCHULTZ: Kevin, it is going to be difficult for me to weigh in on that case because even though it's been heard in front of the United States Supreme Court it's an ongoing criminal matter. So I'm going to have to reserve comment on that particular case and refer you to the Department of Justice.
Q So are U.S. officials at all suggesting or weighing in with their counterparts in the UK or EU on whether the Article 50 should be invoked right away in order to have the orderly process that you all keep talking about?
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, our view is that that's going to be a decision made by the government of the United Kingdom. They obviously have to work through this process. They should do so closely coordinated with their counterparts in the EU. But that's going to be a procedure that's put in place by the two governments. I understand that Prime Minister Cameron has suggested that they will invoke Article 50 into the fall. And again, our expectation is that when this process happens it will be done in an orderly way, organized and transparent.
Q So how concerned is the White House about the political chaos that we're seeing in the United Kingdom right now, given that the Prime Minister is only staying until October and the opposition seems to be having some difficulties?
MR. SCHULTZ: It's going to be hard for me to comment about American domestic politics let alone British domestic politics. I would tell you that it's my understanding that it's not even clear if there’s going to have to be elections to succeed Prime Minister Cameron. That might happen in a conference or caucus session later in the fall. So I understand that the experts there are working through that process and that's going to take some time to figure out.
I can tell you, broadly speaking, that the President has said that our relationship with the United Kingdom is not only special and unique it's enduring. And so we expect that the close ties between not only the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States but the people of the United States and the United Kingdom will continue. We believe the links and ties between our two countries transcends any particular politicians, and so we expect the close ties between our two countries to endure.
Q You told us last week about the calls between the President and two of his counterparts right after the Brexit vote, but I'm wondering whether he’s spoken with additional leaders over the weekend, if you can tell us about any of those calls.
MR. SCHULTZ: Roberta, I don't have any additional presidential calls to read out to you at this time. I can tell you that all appropriate facets of our administration have been engaged on this. I'm happy to give you a few of the highlights.
I know Secretary Kerry spoke Friday with his counterparts in the United Kingdom and in the EU. Yesterday, Secretary Kerry met with his Italian counterpart, and today Secretary Kerry is in Brussels, where he met with the EU President, the EU High Representative, and the NATO Secretary General. Secretary Kerry I believe is either on his way or is in London right now, where he'll be meeting with Prime Minister Cameron and his counterpart, the UK Foreign Secretary.
I know Secretary Lew has been in touch with all of his counterparts in the G7. He has spoken several times with his counterparts -- in addition to Chancellor Merkel, United Kingdom Chancellor Osborne, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang. He’s also spoken with a number of financial market participants. This is on top of a conference call that Secretary Lew participated in with all of the G7 finance ministers. And it's also on top of an engagement Secretary Carter had with his counterpart with the United Kingdom.
I will also tell you that our Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economics, Wally Adeyemo, has been attending the G20 sherpa meeting in China, and I'm confident in telling you that this has been a part of his conversations. So he’s part of the administration outreach that's going on.
Q You keep on talking about this being orderly or the expectation that this is going to be orderly. But S&P just stripped the UK of its top credit rating. And I'm just wondering what evidence you're seeing that this is happening in an orderly fashion.
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Roberta, there’s no question that this has prompted volatility in the immediate term in the financial markets. But as we move forward, it's important to stress that the United Kingdom, European and global policymakers have the tools necessary to not just support financial stability but also to promote economic growth. And the good news is our experts, including Secretary Lew, are confident that the United Kingdom policymakers have the tools necessary to promote economic financial stability. They’ve actually taken a look recently and believe that these banks and financial systems are in much better shape compared to recent years. So I think that's why you're seeing our experts speak confidently about the orderly process moving forward.
Q Thanks, Eric. Given that this is going to be a lengthy process, what do you think is the earliest -- or what are you looking at as the time frame for when the U.S. is going to have to negotiate a trade deal -- with Britain? Are we talking two years? Or is there a chance, in your view, that that's going to happen sooner?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Michelle, the economic rationale for the T-TIP agreement remains strong. And we intend to continue working with the EU to conclude negotiations as soon as feasible. I know that our United States Trade Representative has set a goal for the end of the year. I know that that work continues in earnest. And quite frankly, the United States Trade Representative’s team is evaluating what the impact of the UK’s decision is on T-TIP. And obviously we'll be engaging the European Union on this.
I will also say that heretofore our negotiations have been with the European Commission, obviously the governing structure for the European Union. So if we have to start again with the UK, that's going to just be at a different starting point. That's a matter of sort of sequence and factual underpinnings of the negotiations.
So I don't have a new time frame to work out with you right now. But I can say that concluding these negotiations remains a priority for this President. Obviously it's a process that's been underway for years, so we're obviously very -- we've made a lot of progress. We're quite far along in that process with the EU. And if we have to start that with the UK, it's just going to be from a different starting point.
Q Okay. But given the volatility and the shakeup that this has caused, doesn’t this set T-TIP -- and maybe you could extrapolate that out to the TPP as well -- does this kind of slow everything in terms of big trade deals that were already facing obstacles?
MR. SCHULTZ: Let’s take each of those in turn. The President’s commitment to getting a T-TIP agreement has not waned in light of the decision by the British people over the weekend. So that work is going to continue. That work is principally headed out of our United States Trade Representative’s office. He’s in constant negotiations, principally with the European Commission. So that work is going to continue. In terms of how the Brexit decision affects those negotiations, they’re working through that right now. Again, if we have to start negotiating separately with the United Kingdom, that’s going to start from a different vantage point, especially because we’ve had years of progress and work completed with the European Commission.
In terms of TPP, this was obviously a deal that was negotiated because of the President’s determination to make sure that the United States of America sets the rules of the road when it comes to trade with our partners in the Asia Pacific region. That deal was consummated earlier this year, and now heads to the United States Congress.
So I don’t have an updated timeline. As you point out, this is an issue that carries with it political complications. The President is acutely aware of that. He understands this has been a difficult issue in the past. He also understand that previous trade agreements have not lived up to the hype. That’s actually why he insisted on the toughest human rights, labor, and environmental standards ever to exist in a trade agreement, and that’s why he’s confident this will pass congressional approval.
Q Okay. And when we heard from both the President and the Vice President last week, after the vote, they both talked about the nationalistic sentiment that led up to leaving the EU. And, in fact, the Vice President used the words “nationalism,” “isolationism” and “xenophobia.” So seeing that vote turn out the way it did, does this raise the possibility that those same sentiments will win out in the U.S. in November?
MR. SCHULTZ: Michelle, I think it’s a fair question and I think a lot of people have been speculating about this. It’s hard for me to see whether a referendum in the United Kingdom can project a lot about a domestic political race in the United States five months from now. So I’m going to leave it to pundits and my highly paid colleagues on television to offer their views on that.
I will say that, as you point out, the President and the Vice President have remarked recently and even before this decision that every country has had to cope with globalization and with international trends. So this isn’t something new that we’re dealing with this past weekend. Generally speaking, I think it’s important to know that the President has remarked repeatedly that in moments of uncertainty there are some who have impulses to pull back and to cower and react out of fear. We've seen some of these moments in our history. There are episodes that are generally dark and that we generally regret.
The President has a different approach. The President believes we succeed when we are as inclusive as possible and when we embrace not only America’s strengths but also America’s role in the world.
Let me just tell you why. We live in a smaller world than ever before. Our national security is more closely linked than at any other time in history. And the interconnectiveness of our global economy is evident nearly every day and sometimes even hourly. Given these facts, it just doesn’t make much sense to retreat or to build barricades with other countries. It's also not in our interest.
Let’s look at what we've been able to accomplish with America leading the world. As you know, just under 200 countries signed the first-ever agreement to combat climate change. Nearly 200 countries are taking concrete steps to make sure our planet is preserved for generations to come. Six of the world’s most prominent powers -- who don't often see eye-to-eye -- came together to impose the most -- strictest, heaviest sanctions on Iran, which leveraged them to come to the negotiating table and ultimately found a solution to cut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon.
As you pointed out, we were able to secure a trade agreement with 12 other countries, which advanced America’s interests, so that America is writing the rules of the road on trade and not China. We assembled a coalition of *68 66 partners to combat the threat against ISIL. The Arab world is heavily represented in that coalition. That just didn’t appear overnight. That didn’t appear by itself. It was because of the President’s determination to lead the international community against this threat that that coalition was formed and continues to have success to this day.
Two more examples: The President’s leadership on the international stage has isolated Russia more than ever before in recent history. They violated international norms. They violated another country’s sovereignty. And the sanctions imposed on that country have led it to shrink its economy by one-sixth. Those weren’t just bilateral sanctions, those were sanctions that had the effect they did because of the United States working with our partners around the world.
Lastly, Cuba. Obviously, reopening relations there have not only changed the way we interact with the Cuban people and offers that country a much brighter future, it's also in our economic interest, it's in our security interest, but it's also rewriting all of the relationships in the Western Hemisphere.
So the President is proud of his record leading the United States in the international community. And it's one that's not going to stop for the next six months.
Q I first wanted to go back to Roberta's question about the political turmoil in the UK. I know you've described some of the outstanding questions, but I think what I wanted to get at a little bit is whether the UK needs to do a better job of laying out the answers to those questions, how the election process -- or lack of election process -- is going to work. So if you could comment on that. And if you don’t want to weigh into it, is it implicitly saying that you're not worried that that political turmoil could continue to roil markets in a way that would threaten the U.S. economy?
MR. SCHULTZ: You're right, I'm not going to weigh into the domestic political situation in Britain. All I would say is the President spoke with Prime Cameron over the weekend. They had a very good conversation. Obviously, Prime Minister Cameron is a good friend of the President. They've worked together on a host issues, ranging from the fight against Ebola to fight against ISIL. The UK remains a valued member of NATO. They're actually one of the few countries that not only committed to making 2 percent of their GDP defense-related, but have lived up that commitment.
So the President deeply values his relation with Prime Minister Cameron, but he also knows that the bonds between the United Kingdom and the United States are going to endure. So I don’t have any political prognostication for you to do on the British domestic process.
Q Well, it's not prognostication as much as do you think the UK needs to say, this is the sort of time frame, this is the timeline, this is how things are going to work?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think that will happen. I think the British people and the British government will lay out a time frame for that to happen. So I'm not going to second-guess that from here in advance of them doing so.
Q Is it fair to say that you guys were caught by surprise by Brexit?
MR. SCHULTZ: It's not. National Security Advisor Susan Rice spoke over the weekend, and she made clear that we have contingency plans for both outcomes. Obviously we had hoped for a different outcome, but it would have been irresponsible to not plan for both outcomes.
Q You mentioned Secretary Lew spoke with Chancellor Merkel. That's in addition to President Obama doing so. Can you just kind of describe what you see is her role in addressing the sort of crisis that has resulted in Brexit?
MR. SCHULTZ: I can. Yes, so Secretary Lew spoke with Chancellor Merkel in the past day or so, and the President spoke with Chancellor Merkel over the weekend -- or early Friday, I guess. And in that conversation, the President and the Chancellor expressed regret for the decision, but they also expressed respect for the decision and the acknowledgement that the British people have spoken. And in light of that, there needs to be an orderly process for which the UK can depart the European Union.
So, again, there's some sequencing there that still needs to be worked out. But I think that obviously the President has deep respect for Chancellor Merkel and her leadership not only in Germany, but also as one of our NATO allies. And so I expect the President to continue to be in close touch with Chancellor Merkel, but I also expect members of the administration and White House staff to be in close touch with their counterparts and the German government.
Q Last one. There were reports over the weekend that millions of dollars' worth of CIA weapons were sold by Jordanian intelligence officials -- they were intended for the rebels in Syria. I'm wondering if you could talk about that situation, but also whether it sort of undercuts your guys' claims that the people that these weapons were going to were carefully vetted and what the impact on the relationship with Jordan might be.
MR. SCHULTZ: In terms of the relationship with Jordan, obviously we remain committed to Jordan's security and stability. We're proud to stand side by side with Jordan in the global coalition to counter ISIL. Jordan has been a valuable partner in that effort, and we appreciate all of their contributions.
For questions regarding this particular episode, I would say a couple of things. One is, there's an ongoing investigation into that particular shooting, so I would have to refer you to the FBI on the latest on that. In terms of the International Police Training Center, that is a center that has been stood up to promote training for the Jordanians and international security forces. That's a center that's supported by our State Department, so if you have questions about that center, that State Department would be point for you on that.
Q You just said that National Security Advisor Rice was planning contingencies. What were some of the concerns that had to be planned for?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Ron, I think that we had made our views clear on this, that our belief was that a strong European Union includes the United Kingdom. So obviously that's a view that the President had. But we also believe that this was a decision for the British people. So given the vote -- we had wanted this to come out in the direction, but in the weeks and months ahead of that, there's meetings and contingency plans built. Those are principally an interagency process that's mostly at our Department of Treasury and our Department of State, but coordinated by the White House.
Q How much of a national security concern to America is this? We've talked a lot about the trade deals and economics involved, but how much of this -- how much does this affect America's national security that Britain is no longer going to be in the EU?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, the good news is -- Ambassador Rice addressed this yesterday as well, and she made clear that the UK will remain a key leader with the NATO Alliance, and we look forward to the UK's participation in the July 8th NATO Summit in Warsaw. Obviously, the President will be there, and obviously this will be an item on the agenda. But we're going to continue to work bilaterally and through NATO to ensure our collective security cooperation. Secretary Carter has spoken to his British counterpart, Secretary Fallon, to affirm that the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom will remain a bedrock of U.S. security and defense policy.
As we mentioned before, the U.S. and the UK have close ties. A lot of those ties are in the security arena. So you look at intelligence-sharing, you look at our efforts to combat ISIL, you look at defense spending. So those are ties that are not going to change in light of the UK's decision.
Q I feel like the special relationship changes because of this missing economic component of it, which is significant.
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, in our view, the special relationship endures. Like I mentioned to Michelle and Roberta, the actual negotiations over the T-TIP need to be looked at. But in terms of our economic ties with Britain, they remain strong and vibrant as they ever have been. And so if you look at our commercial ties, our trade, if you look at cultural exchanges -- people-to-people -- those remain strong and robust, and I don’t anticipate that to wane in light of the decision by the British people from the weekend.
Q But in terms of the economics and trade, the President famously said "back of the queue," and you have to take him at his word.
MR. SCHULTZ: We do. And that's what I meant when I said that the negotiations for T-TIP have been going on for years and we are so far along that our United States Trade Representative, Michael Froman, has said he wants to close them out by the end of the year. So if we have to start from the beginning with the British people, it's just going to, as a matter of fact, be at a different queue.
Q But it will substantively as important a relationship between the United States and a smaller Britain. They're not analogous. It's a huge trading bloc of 20-plus nations versus one nation that you're now negotiating. Some of this is theoretical, obviously, because it hasn’t happened yet.
MR. SCHULTZ: You're right, the departure hasn’t happened. But I guess I'd dispute the suggestion that our relationship with Britain is going to be altered from the sort of closeness that we have now. If you take a look at a lot of the areas where we have intense cooperation -- that's the counter-ISIL campaign; that's, again, our cooperation within NATO; again, Britain is one of the few countries to live up to its commitment to assign 2 percent of its GDP for defense spending. That's robust intelligence-sharing. That's bilateral trade -- existing bilateral trade. And again, that's also cultural exchanges. All of these links will continue even in the wake of what the British people decided on Thursday.
Q And lastly, on Brexit. Scotland and Northern Ireland -- is the President going to weigh in on that? As he said, friends should tell friends what friends think. (Laughter.) And he stepped into London and he said --
MR. SCHULTZ: Sounds like a PSA, Ron. (Laughter.)
Q The point is, does he have a position on whether Scotland and Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, when this came up for a referendum back in the fall of 2014, the President did weigh in. At the time, he said that this was a decision for the Scottish people to make. But he also made clear that he believes a United Kingdom is a strong United Kingdom. And so I don’t have any new positions to read out right now.
Q And just lastly, is there any new word on the Hillary Clinton -- you anticipated it obviously -- the delayed Wisconsin event.
MR. SCHULTZ: As you know, the President and Secretary Clinton were scheduled to campaign together in Green Bay a few weeks ago. In light of the terrorist attack in Orlando, that even was pulled down. So I don’t yet have an update for the schedule. I can affirm for you that the President is eager to get out there on the campaign trail. I think some of you got a taste of that over the weekend. He had a few political events where he articulated the case that he'll be making. But we don't yet have that nailed down in the schedule yet.
Q I have two, following up on what Ron said. Why is he so eager? Is the eagerness about trying to secure or help secure votes for Hillary Clinton that are still kind of out there, weighing their options between the two presumptive nominees? Or is it because he’s back on the trail for one last time, even though it's not for himself?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think it's neither. There’s a lot at stake in this election. If you look at a range of national security and domestic issues, the views of the two candidates could not be further apart.
Obviously the President has made his views known about who he wants to see succeed him in office. I think that is based on not only a personal relationship with Secretary Clinton, but also the President’s experience working in the Oval Office, sitting behind that desk, leading this country and facing down the challenges that he’s faced on a daily basis.
If you just take a couple of examples, one is the President’s economic record -- that we have a choice in this country whether to continue the progress we've made over the past seven years. That progress includes the longest stretch of private sector job growth our country has ever seen. That's probably a statistic that a lot of people in this room would have laughed at me -- I didn’t work here in 2009, but if the person who was here made that argument in 2009, I think you guys would have been rightfully suspicious of that.
As you know, April, the unemployment rate has been cut by more than half and now stands at 4.7 percent, again, reaching that level far sooner than expected. Manufacturing has added 832 [thousand] jobs over the past 75 months. This is the fastest streak of manufacturing jobs since the 1990s. Rising home prices have brought millions of homeowners back above water. Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. The budget deficit has been cut by nearly three-quarters.
So the President has made a lot of progress over the past seven years. That's not to mention what we've done in climate change. That's not to mention what we've done in housing, on reducing the deficit, on a whole host of other areas. But there’s a lot of work to be done. And I think that's why the President is so focused on this upcoming race.
Q So with all of that, all of these successes, we're about a month out or so from the Democratic convention. And has the President begun to write or tell his staff what the key components that you already know -- the key components of his speech, what it will be? And is it going to be an easy speech since you are able to tout so easily what he has accomplished, his successes, when he goes into Philadelphia?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don't have an update on our speechwriting process for the convention. I can tell you that generally this is a responsibility the President takes seriously; that he’s not only President of the United States, he’s the leader of the Democratic Party, so he wants to make sure this convention is as successful as possible.
I do think that those of you who accompanied the President on this past trip got a preview of the argument that he’s going to be making. I don't know how similar the text of the remarks will be to what we gave earlier this past weekend to what he'll speak to in Philadelphia, but I do think thematically, the President has a strong record. It's one he’s proud of and one he wants to continue.
I would also note I saw that Leader McConnell was on the TV this weekend and could not articulate any comfortability with his party’s nominee. He could not state that his party’s nominee was qualified to be President of the United States. Yet Leader McConnell is the Senate architect of their strategy to hold open a seat on the highest court in the land for him to fill. So you’ll have to ask them how they square those two positions. But we often talk about cynicism in Washington, and I can't think of anything more cynical than what they’re trying to do there.
Q So you're saying that right now, today, June 27th, the outline for the speech for next month is pretty much somewhat laid already -- because he kind of gave it this weekend -- kind of started this weekend?
MR. SCHULTZ: What I was trying to say, April, is that the argument that the President will make on the campaign trail are some of the arguments you’ve already heard.
Q I mean the main --
MR. SCHULTZ: I understand -- are arguments you’ve already heard. The convention speech is obviously a cut above in terms of importance and in terms of prominence, mostly because of the attention that will be paid to that speech. So I don't have an update on where we are in the speechwriting process. Obviously when speeches are of this importance, the President spends a lot of time on them. So I wouldn't be surprised if he’s already engaged in the process. But I don't have an update in terms of where the drafts are.
Q Eric, do you have any reaction to the Supreme Court decision on the gun rights case today, and does that figure at all into the debate that's going on on gun rights?
MR. SCHULTZ: I saw that decision. Obviously we're pleased with it, that it's consistent with the Solicitor General’s arguments in that case. I don't know of any sort of discernable impact it would have on the debate in Congress. Again, I, unfortunately, saw Leader McConnell’s appearance on John’s network this weekend where he said when asked about this issue that it's time to move on. It's time to move on from doing something on gun safety. I don't think the families of the 49 killed in Orlando think it's time to move on. I don't think that the families of the children in Newtown think it’s time to move on.
I'm not sure why Leader McConnell said that, but it seems to me that when you can't even take common-sense steps to prevent gun violence -- like making sure that those who our homeland security officials have deemed too dangerous to board a flight, making sure those people can't also -- can't buy a firearm -- if you are not even able to tackle an issues that is so sensical sensible as that, then I don't know why you're here. I don't know why you were sent to Washington. This is an issue that enjoys bipartisan support amongst Democrats and Republicans. It's also an issue that makes common sense, and it's also an issues supported by our national security experts -- our homeland security experts.
So I know that Leader McConnell said he wants to move on. But we hope he revisits that decision.
Q I'm sorry if this has already been asked, but do you have any reaction to TransCanada suing over the rejection of the Keystone pipeline?
MR. SCHULTZ: Pam, I did see that. We don't comment on pending litigation or arbitration. But I do know that Secretary Kerry has -- well, the State Department spoke to this over the weekend and basically what they reiterated is that last November, Secretary Kerry determined that the Keystone XL pipeline did not serve the national interest. And we're confident that this determination is entirely consistent with all of our domestic and international obligations, including the obligations under NAFTA. And we're confident that will be upheld.
Q Thank you, Eric. Change of topic. The leader of Hezbollah made a rather drastic statement during the weekend that they receive funds and weapons from Iran. While it is not new, does this shock you that actually he’s coming straightforward and confessing that they’re taking all their money from the Iranian government?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Nadia, I can't get into intelligence matters, but we have called on all those who fund Hezbollah to stop doing so. We know that Iran supports terrorism, and we know that Iran supports Hezbollah. And that is why we've issued the most serious and most severe sanctions ever on Iran for doing so. So it's important for them to recognize their own behavior in enabling this.
And we've had a conversation recently about Iran’s concerns about access to international markets. Well, those financial actors are looking at Iran’s behavior. And if Iran is going to continue to fund terrorism and continue to supply resources to Hezbollah, that is going to have impact. Those financial actors don't want to do business with a country that's doing that.
So we call on Iran to not only stop doing this because it's not good for national security and they’re supporting terrorism, but we call on Iran to stop doing it because it's not in their interest either.
Q -- he also said that they don't need the banking system, that the money that they’re getting from the Iranians are already going to them, whether it's cash or other methods, et cetera. So in this case, you have little leverage in terms of what money has reached them through the banking system.
MR. SCHULTZ: I'm not sure that's true, Nadia. We are going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal, including sanctions, to target this group that we have, of course, designated as a foreign terrorist organization. We believe our designations over the past year designating Hezbollah procurement networks, financial and commercial front companies and other entities have been highly effective. The sanctions regime passed earlier this year further builds on that and has created a climate throughout the world where financial institutions are rejecting Hezbollah from their institutions.
But your point is well taken that if Iran is going to continue to support Hezbollah, Hezbollah is going to continue to have a funding stream and resources. That's why it's all the more important that if Iran wants access to international markets they’re going to need to curb their own behavior.
Q The President put out a paper statement on the Texas abortion case this morning, but I'm wondering if you could just address the significance of the ruling.
MR. SCHULTZ: As the President said, he was pleased that the Supreme Court issued a ruling protecting women’s rights and their ability to make decisions on their health. This is an opinion that was consistent with not only what the Solicitor General argued in front of the Court, but it's also consistent with the President’s values on a position that he’s been articulating since day one.
Our bottom line is that a decision on women’s health should be made by that particular woman. And this is an individual, private matter and one that shouldn’t be subject to government intrusion.
Q How significant would you say --
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. Well, I would say that obviously the President believes that a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to make this decision free from interference from the government is a important principle for this President, but also one that's been upheld by the Court in the past. So we are pleased by today’s decision. We think it's an important one in that it underscores the reproductive freedom of women across the country. We believe that government should not intrude on these most private family matters, and that women should be able to make their own choices about their body and health care.
Q Can I just follow up on the question about the rescheduling of the President’s -- is it possible because of the President’s travel schedule that the President might not actually reschedule the event with Hillary Clinton and would appear at the convention with her instead?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven't heard that contemplated. I think they will be hitting the campaign trail together. I'm just unable to offer you a new date for when that's going to happen. But as I said, the President is eager to get out there and campaign for Secretary Clinton. He thinks he has a forceful case to make and he’s looking forward to making that.
Q As you might know, today former Senator Brown, as a surrogate for Donald Trump, today was suggesting that Senator Warren could clear up questions about her Indian heritage if she took a DNA test. Do you have any reaction to that suggestion?
MR. SCHULTZ: I do not.
Q Thanks, Eric. On Zika funding, I know that the Senate is going to try to defeat that bill the White House -- you said that the President would veto it. How do we get to a bill that the President can sign quickly? What is your best-case scenario for moving forward?
MR. SCHULTZ: It's a very good question, and I think the answer is that House Republicans stop playing games; that they unfortunately have turned a public health emergency into a political football, and that's unfortunate. Again, we talk a lot about the cynicism in Washington, and to walk away from the negotiating table so that Democrats can't even sign off on a bill isn't leadership. It's a weakness.
And again, like we've talked about, it doesn’t even look like the Senate could pass the bill. So if presented with the bill, the President would veto it. I'm happy to outline why. But it's not even clear that this could pass muster in the United States Senate.
Again, our principal concerns about the bill come in four baskets. One, it's woefully inadequate. The President’s request was for $1.9 billion, but it's even misleading to call it the President’s request. This was a document and calculations put together by our public health professionals who determined that this would be the adequate funding needed to take on this situation.
Secondly, it steals money from other critically important public health priorities, like funding the Affordable Care Act and funding the effort against Ebola. We have personnel I think from the CDC on the ground right now in West Africa working on prevention, working on making sure another outbreak doesn’t occur. I think it would be grossly irresponsible to take them off the job. I don't know if House Republicans have figured that out, but maybe they should spend some time thinking about it.
Third, the bill includes an ideological rider blocking access to contraception for women in the United States, including women in Puerto Rico, even though this is a sexually transmitted disease. That, again, makes zero sense, especially since we're already seeing transmission in Puerto Rico.
And then, lastly, this is a bill that contains an ideological rider to gut the provisions in clean water regulations. Again, makes no sense. Also doesn’t belong intelligence bill.
So we call on Republicans to get serious about this, and we hope they get to work soon.
Q So you're willing to wait then. I mean, I guess --
MR. SCHULTZ: We absolutely don't want to wait. And let me be clear. We submitted a proposal in February. It was put together and drafted by our public health professionals that outlined in detail what resources the federal government needed. So nobody in the White House is waiting. In fact, we have deployed as many resources as possible that we can do on our own. We have reprogrammed some of the money that was allocated for Ebola in order to combat this threat. But the President has been clear that we can't do this alone. This is going to require congressional action. That's why we requested the $1.9 billion, and that's why we think Congress should get to work in passing it.
A few things that are not being funded right now because of Republican intransigence -- if you just look at the state of Florida, money is needed right now in the state of Florida because mosquito control, which is a central element of the efforts to combat the virus, are spotty and underfunded. The battle to squash the virus began months ago in Florida, but over two dozen local governments in Florida are collectively seeking millions of dollars to stop the threat. The state of Florida alone needs to hire more inspectors, buy more insecticide, lay more mosquito traps, and conduct a more effective public information campaign on this. But they’re unable to do so because they don't have the funding.
So I don't know how the House delegation in Florida -- how hard they’re working on this, but it seems to me that if their junior senator has stepped up to the plate to say that Florida and the United States deserves this funding, it seems to me like those House Republicans maybe shouldn’t have acquiesced to the Speaker who passed a bill that does almost nothing.
Q Thanks, Eric. There are some U.S. firms that put down roots in the UK, hoping to gain and keep access to EU markets. They are understandably concerned now. Do you have a plan to help them? Or do they assume a certain amount of risk and they have to live with it now?
MR. SCHULTZ: My understanding, Olivier -- and I don't know if you're talking about specific contracts --
Q For example, there’s some PhRMA, there’s some financial services that put down pretty considerable -- they invested a fair amount.
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. So my understanding is that existing contracts will remain legally binding. But if you have specific questions about specific contracts, I'd obviously refer you to the company that's in question. But my understanding is, generally speaking, most of these will be legally binding.
Q And there’s some talk that the UK’s eventual withdrawal from the EU, if that happens, will weaken the consensus on sanctions against Russia. How concerned are you about that? And overall, do you think the Brexit vote was a victory for Vladimir Putin?
MR. SCHULTZ: I understand there’s been some public speculation on this, but our view is we don't expect the UK’s referendum to have any impact on the rollover of sanctions against Russia. As you know, this was talked about recently at the G7 in Japan, where some of you accompanied the President to. Since the start of the crisis in Ukraine, the United States, the EU and the G7 have worked in close cooperation to develop a set of sanctions that have had a deep impact on the Russian economy.
So our understanding is those will roll over. But obviously, United States officials will be working on that in the coming weeks and months. But again, all of the G7 partners in Japan issued a commitment that the sanctions will stay in place unless Russia decides to start to abide by the Minsk agreements. If they start to abide by those agreements, those sanctions can start to be rolled back.
So President Putin has a choice to make. He can either continue down this path, which has been harmful for the Russian economy -- as I mentioned, the Russian economy has contracted about one-sixth. It's smaller than the Spanish economy right now. That's a direct result of a number of factors, but it's hard to ignore the impact of the sanctions. Again, these weren’t just bilateral sanctions put in place with the United States, they were sanctions that, thanks to the American leadership around the world, a whole host of international partners did so as well. That's why the sanctions have had such impact.
Q Eric, on Friday, Defense Department reported in media reports as saying the Pentagon would lift the ban on open transgender service in coming weeks after -- agreement on the issue. Was the White House involved in getting agreement to go forward? Do you have any reaction to it?
MR. SCULTZ: Chris, I saw those reports. I don't have official reaction from the White House on that. Obviously, that's a decision made by our Defense Department officials. So I don't have any updates for you on that process.
Q But like aren’t you pleased that there’s greater -- a move towards greater inclusion in the military?
MR. SCULTZ: Well, the President has actually spoken to this. He was at -- he spoke recently at the Air Force commencement. And he was deeply moved by not only the caliber of the cadets, but also the diversity of the class. He saw openly gay students. He saw Muslim Americans, Hispanic Americans. He saw women graduate who would soon serve in combat. So he’s spoken quite frequently about the inclusivity of our military and how that is a strength and helps make our military the greatest in the world.
Q And that would apply to transgender troops, as well?
MR. SCULTZ: Again, you're asking about a specific policy decision made by our Defense Department officials. So I don't want to get ahead of them.
Q One more thing. Secretary Clinton marched yesterday in New York City’s Pride, despite having complications with a Secretary Service detail. Did the President miss an opportunity by not participating in a Pride parade during his administration, especially to make -- at the same time to coincide with designating the national monument in honor of the Stonewall riots?
MR. SCULTZ: Well, Chris, I’m glad you brought up the national monument that was announced over the weekend. I think the President’s record on this issue is well known.
As you know, under his administration, don't ask, don't tell was repealed; the Defense of Marriage Act was rejected; insurance companies now can't discriminate based on who you love, and gay marriage is the law of the land. So I think the President’s record on this strong. It’s one he’s enormously proud of.
Obviously, the history at Stonewall is well known. In 1969, a few bar patrons resisted arrest. That resistance led to protest; that protest led to a movement. And that movement led to enormous progress towards equality.
But like you’re suggesting, the fight isn’t over. And the President is acutely aware of that. That's why he’s worked hard on this, and that's why it’s going to be an issue that's always important to him.
Q Well, concerning the President’s record and his views, why didn’t he make an appearance to -- at the Pride celebration -- to announce the designation of the national monument?
MR. SCULTZ: I think the President was enormously proud to announce that designation earlier this week. Obviously, we were coming back from Seattle on Saturday morning. So I don't have any second-guessing to do on the President’s schedule. But again, I think the President’s record speaks for itself. And he was enormously proud to designate this monument over the weekend.
Q Thank you. I want to follow up on Brexit for just a second. We're sort of awash in the minutia of what’s been happening. But for the average American, should they be concerned? If so, why? And if not, why not?
MR. SCULTZ: Well, I think what’s important for the average American to realize that this was a decision for the British people, and the British people have spoken. And it’s a decision in the United States that we respect.
It’s also important for average people to understand that the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom remains, and it’s going to be a bedrock of U.S. security and foreign policy. Likewise, the European Union remains an indispensable partner of the United States in stimulating economic growth and addressing regional and global challenges.
As the UK and the EU begin the process of negotiating the UK’s departure, we're going to continue our robust work both in London and in Brussels and in other EU capitals to ensure continued stability, security, and prosperity both in Europe and all over the world.
Q So based on that, the average American has nothing to be concerned about or to fear based on the UK’s independent decision to leave the EU?
MR. SCULTZ: I think that as Secretary Lew said earlier today, and as other financial experts have attested, that there are now safeguards in place in a lot of these systems -- international systems and European banks -- that buttress their resilience to be able to deal with market fluctuations or headwinds.
But if you're worried about what comes next, I think you are absolutely right to raise the question because we are going to continue to work closely with London and with Brussels and our international partners. So I’m not going to get ahead of this process between the UK and the EU to figure out. But we're going to remain engaged. We're going to make sure that this is an orderly process. That's our expectation. But it also seems to be a goal that's shared by both the UK and the EU.
Q And the reason I ask the question is because you have Secretaries Kerry and Lew out there, and Advisor Rice out there. You have a cadre of heavy hitters out there responding to this. And so I think people wonder if that's the viewpoint, if that's the way the White House is handling this, should we all be a little bit more concerned about it -- as opposed to, oh, that's just a vote over there. Do you understand my meaning?
MR. SCULTZ: I do. I hesitate to bring up the
counterfactual, but I have a feeling that if our administration weren’t out there responding, you could imagine the questions we’d be getting for why aren’t we responding to this. I think that Secretary Kerry’s travel and comments on this, Secretary Lew’s comments on this, our National Security Advisor, Susan Rice were making important comments. And I do think it’s important to communicate with the American people what our view is, what we think the consequences are of this decision. And so we're going to continue to do that.
Q I want to ask you about what seems to be a bit of a standoff between the White House and the House Select Committee on Benghazi over whether the President should answer questions, a series of questions about the 2012 terrorist attack that left four Americans dead. We understand that Counsel to the President Neil Eggleston feels like the questions were inappropriate. I’m just wondering, as an American, why wouldn’t the President want to explain not just what was happening that night, where he was, what was happening directly as it relates to his evening, but also why not answer more specific questions about it in the interest of transparency?
MR. SCULTZ: Sure, Kevin. Today -- I looked this up -- it is the 781st day of this committee. This a committee that has gone on longer than the 9/11 Commission, than the committee designated to look at Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Iran-Contra Affair, and Watergate.
Q But not longer than the studying of the pipeline through Canada.
MR. SCULTZ: Kevin. (Laughter.)
Q That was lasted about 2,000 days or something, right? I’m just saying.
MR. SCULTZ: Look, the problem is this is not the first committee to look into this, right? This has gone on for a couple years now. But the investigations into this attack started moments after the attack. This is actually not the second or third committee to look into this, this is the eighth. This is the eighth. Republicans have been investigating this exhaustively. And with each turn of the crank, they're unable to prove some of the wild conspiracy theories they've been proffering for years. So it’s not surprising to me that Republicans want to look at every possible crevice for a new conspiracy. Unfortunately, when they do so, they come up with nothing.
So if you're wondering where the President was that night, there’s an easy place to find out. On the White House Flickr feed we actually released a photo image of what the President was doing, and he was getting briefed by his White House team on the attack.
So I know Republicans don't want to believe that photo. Maybe they think it was Photoshopped. Maybe they think it was fake. But it’s 100 percent authentic. And it’s a question we answered years ago.
If you're asking about our cooperation with this committee, it is far-ranging. We at the White House -- just the White House produced nearly 1,500 pages of documents. The State Department produced 100,000 pages. State Department officials sat down for 53 transcribed interviews. The Defense Department sat down for 24 transcribed interviews, sent over a thousand pages of documents. The Department of Justice sent over 84 intelligence products. The CIA produced 10,000 pages of documents. The Director of National Intelligence has produced 429 documents. And none of that includes the previous seven committees.
So I don't know why Republicans are obsessed with this. But given the other priorities that we've been talking about -- Zika funding. We haven’t even mentioned Puerto Rico, cybersecurity, criminal justice reform -- given all of the other priorities pending right now before Congress, common-sense measures to combat gun violence, maybe they should get to work on something they can have actual impact on.
Q Last question. The President, in comments to a DCCC fundraiser on Friday, didn't really mention the sit-in over at the House. That was a bit of a surprise, to be honest, because the Democrats seemed to be making a big deal. Is it because the White House sort of wants to distance itself from that sort of sit-in, that protest? Or does the White House simply feel like it’s not something that should be used to proffer in political ads and that sort of thing?
MR. SCULTZ: I see. The answer is not at all, Kevin. Everyone at the White House, including the President, was hugely supportive of Congressman Lewis’s leadership on this. The President sent out a tweet as a small gesture of support. But the President’s record on this and views on this are well known. My colleague, Josh Earnest, spoke of the Senate vote as a “shameful display of cowardice”. House Republicans have found an even new low. They wouldn’t even call for a vote. It was a humiliating moment for Republican House leadership.
If the Speaker believes that, again, someone who is too dangerous to board a plane ought to be able to purchase a firearm, he should go ahead and make a floor speech and call the yeas and nays. He should have the vote. He should make the case. If he believes that not everyone should be subject to background checks before purchasing a firearm, make the case. Have a speech. Call the vote.
I looked up that 85 percent of the people of Wisconsin believe in universal background checks. He should have to answer for that. His caucus should be accountable for what they believe.
Q I have one more question about the Brexit. You told --
MR. SCULTZ: I doubt it. (Laughter.)
Q You said that the Treasury Secretary was confident the UK has the tools to promote stability there. Just looking at the global markets, it looks like about $2 trillion has been wiped out just since the vote. I guess I’m wondering if there’s any concern by the administration that this action in the UK could either undo some of the progress that the administration feels it’s made since the 2008 financial crisis, or what they think the long-term impact will be?
MR. SCULTZ: Well, you're right, we have seen volatility in the markets. There’s no question. And I don't mean to dismiss that. What I’m talking about is Secretary Lew and his team determining that the UK and other policymakers around Europe are well prepared and have the tools necessary to support economic and financial stability over the long term. The European financial system’s resilience has significantly improved in recent years.
We are in close contact with our G7 and other international counterparts, and we're going to continue to consult and cooperate as appropriate. I think you saw a joint statement from G7 released in the wake of the vote. I’d refer you to that statement, which also expressed confidence in the resilience of the systems in place. And I do think that we've seen progress, and we've seen more safeguards built into the system since that crisis. So I think that speaks to why Secretary Lew made those comments.
Q You've also talked about the respect that the President and the administration has for the British people’s vote on this referendum. Some people, though, have been calling for maybe a second round of voting. Does the administration believe that that would be a mistake to do that?
MR. SCULTZ: John, like you said, we respect the vote that happened on Thursday. The British people have spoken. I know that the British ambassador to the U.S. was on TV over the weekend, and he talked about this being irrevocable. So, clearly, that's their position. I know that Chancellor Merkel earlier today said she deals with facts, and the facts are this is what the British people voted for. So I'm going to stick in that camp, too.
Q Just one final question, following up on Kevin's line on Benghazi. Some of the questions that have kind of been, I guess, a signal that the committee had in their questionnaire, a written questionnaire, seem pretty straightforward. I know that -- I see what the counselor's advice was. But just as far as the question, the administration said that the President got briefed around 5:00 p.m. The attacks started at 3:42 p.m. Was that briefing, would you say, was that the first that he had learned about the attack? Somebody must have said, hey, this attack happened, we're going to do a briefing in 20 minutes or whatever, right? So how did he first learn of the attack?
MR. SCHULTZ: John, I don’t have a tick-tock of the President's schedule from September 11th, 2012. All I can tell you that Republicans continue to try and muster and fabricate and manufacture fake conspiracies about this. But the President's views on this were not only articulated in the wake of the attack, but the President -- we released details -- we released photo imagery of the President from that evening. And we've also seen Republicans investigate this exhaustively. It was the former House Speaker-in-waiting who admitted that this was all a political exercise. He said -- what everyone knew in private, he said in public -- which is the Benghazi Select Committee was a committee designated to bring down Hillary Clinton's poll numbers. So let's not pretend this is on the level.
You've got Republicans who previously investigated this, who found, based on their own investigations -- this isn’t Democrats, this is House Chairman Mike Rogers, a renowned and respected Republican who no longer serves in the House, but was renowned and respected when he was there -- he said, "After reviewing hundreds of pages of raw intelligence, as well an open-source information, it was clear that between the time when the attacks occurred and when the administration, through Ambassador Susan Rice, appeared on the Sunday talk shows, intelligence analysts and policymakers received a stream piecemeal intelligence regarding the identities and affiliations and motivations of the attackers, as well as the level of planning and coordination. Much of the intelligence was conflicting. And two years later, intelligence gaps remain."
In the aftermath of its own intensive investigation, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a majority reported that the interagency coordination on the talking points followed the normal but rushed coordination procedure, and that there were no efforts by the White House or executive branch entities to cover up facts or make alterations for political purposes. So this is a Republican conspiracy theory in search of a conspiracy.
Q The CBC is reporting that President Obama is preparing, as part of the North American Leaders Summit, to pledge that the U.S. would obtain half of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2025, which would be an extremely ambitious pledge. It would be more ambitious than not only what we’re on track to do, but what even Hillary Clinton has sought to do. Can you comment on whether that’s accurate and what the President's plans are regarding that?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. I can't preview any announcements that will be made in Ottawa on Wednesday. I can say that we do ambitious well, here at the White House. So I know that my colleagues will be having a call later this afternoon to talk about the contours of the summit and what the President hopes to achieve there. But in terms of any announcements that are associated with the North American Leaders Summit, I'm going to let the leaders announce those up there.
Obviously, on the agenda is a host of issues. That includes trade, obviously between the three nations -- 500 million people and billions of dollars -- sorry, 500 million people are the consumer base between the three countries. And billions of dollars exchange hands every day because of trade between our three countries.
So the North American region is and will continue to be an economic powerhouse. I also expect the President and his counterparts to discuss border crossings, border security. I think you can expect the conversation to include -- to extend beyond economic interests, but also cooperating on efforts to tackle transnational organized crime, battle infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola and Zika, alleviate poverty and inequality, expand refugee protection and assistance, and combat the effects of climate change.
So I'm going to stop there and let my colleagues handle the rest. Thanks.
Q Eric, the Turks and the Israelis announced they were normalizing relations today. I just had a small question. I was curious why, when the Prime Minister of Israel called, he spoke with Vice President Biden instead of the President, who has obviously been involved in encouraging this rapprochement also.
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t have any new calls from the President to read out to you. But if that changes, we'll let you know. I am happy to respond to the news and say that the President is pleased that Israel and Turkey have agreed to restore diplomatic relations. The United States welcomes this important step in improving relations between two key partners in the region. And we believe this will open up new opportunities for cooperation in the eastern Mediterranean. Obviously, the governments of Israel and Turkey will have more to say, considering this was an agreement reached between the two of them.
But, yes, I know that Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke with the Vice President, and Prime Minister Netanyahu also met with Secretary Kerry on this. And we believe it's an important milestone. We believe there's important security and economic benefits for both countries and the world.
Q Was the Vice President particularly involved? I mean, I know he's spoken to the Prime Minister about this, too. I mean, is that something he's taken on that would explain the phone call?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. You should check in with the Vice President's office if there is specific engagement they're able to read out to you. But obviously this is something that the President and the Vice President and the entire administration welcome.
Q Back to this Supreme Court decision on abortion. The pro-life folks say that the reason that the law was put -- and the restrictions were put into play was to force clinics to meet hospital-like standards, saying that the ruling would open the door to more Kermit Gosnells, who is the jailed Pennsylvania abortion provider who killed women and injured women. What does the White House say to that argument?
MR. SCHULTZ: So I guess for the specific legal arguments, I would refer you to our Solicitor General's brief and oral arguments. Generally speaking, in this case, though, we believe that a woman's right to make decisions about her reproductive health is sacrosanct. And those decisions should not be subject to government intrusion, and that any obstacle in the path of a woman's reproductive freedom is unconstitutional. We remain strongly committed to the protection of women's health, including protecting women's access to safe, affordable health care, and her right to determine her own future.
I do think it's important to note that, broadly speaking, if you'll just look at data, it's a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows in this country. This administration has, in fact, worked to ensure that every woman has access to the health care she needs. This includes signing the Affordable Care Act into law and ensuring that women can't be charged more just because they are women for health insurance. The Affordable Care Act has also led 20 million more people getting covered, putting the uninsured rate in single digits for the first time on record. Obviously, the protections in place for women and women's health in the Affordable Care Act were important to this President, and that's why he's spoken out so often on this.
Q On Zika, why not compromise? Everybody talks about Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill, and the old era where people got things done. And here you have the President saying $1 billion is just not enough.
MR. SCHULTZ: Because a compromise between Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan suggests that this is a partisan issue. This is a public health emergency. And so I don’t know -- it shouldn’t be a Democratic cause to help protect women and unborn children from birth defects. This should be something that actually enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. This one shouldn’t be complicated. This one shouldn’t be partisan. This one shouldn’t ideological. That’s why we're so profoundly disappointed that House Republicans just threw up their arms, walked away from the negotiating table, and now we're on vacation.
Q Thank you, Eric. Turning back to Europe and the aftermath of Brexit, you've seen a lot of movements spawn in the wake of the Brexit vote. There's Brexit, Grexit, Swexit, and Chexit -- (laughter) -- all of these countries who have movements --
MR. SCHULTZ: Can you say that five times fast? (Laughter.)
Q You really don’t want to hear that. Does the President have an opinion on this mounting movement of exits from the European Union from countries other than Britain? And I might add, recent polls show, for example, in France, more than 60 percent of voters want an exit, and in Greece it's over 70 percent.
MR. SCHULTZ: John, I haven’t heard the President offer comment about these other countries contemplating that. I think I would refer you to those nations if they have views or how they're working through that, or even to the EU. Like I said, earlier, every nation is working through globalization trends, and every nation needs to tackle that -- because, again, our world is smaller than ever before. We are a more interconnected global economy. Our security is more linked than ever before. And that's why it's important to not ignore these trends, but actually work through them.
I think the President's record -- some of the data I spoke of before -- is really strong on this. We brought back the U.S. manufacturing industry. We brought back the U.S. auto manufacturing industry. We have put in place policies that have enabled a steep decline in the unemployment rate. That's something we feel proud of. Wages are starting to go up, not at the pace that we'd like; we want to do more around that. But these are all issues that every country has to work out itself.
We also believe, as I mentioned, there are going to be impulses to retreat and to cower. The President believes that, for the United States, that's not only not in our interest, it's a betrayal of our values. We are a nation founded on basic freedoms. We are a nation of immigrants. Our diversity doesn’t make us weaker, it makes us stronger. It's fundamental to the fabric of who were are. It's a defining characteristic for the United States. And I spoke earlier of how deeply moved the President was of the class at the United States Air Force Academy. That's not just a snapshot of the U.S. military, it's a picture of the United States of America. And again, it doesn’t make us weaker, it actually makes us the strongest nation on Earth.
Q Great. Now, one other thing, though. It would seem from you say, then, that he would not look kindly on movements like this that would break up the union that is the European Union. Can I assume that from your remarks?
MR. SCHULTZ: You can assume that in the month leading up to the vote that occurred last Thursday, the President had the opportunity to weigh in on that decision. Obviously, he also made clear at every instance he spoke of that this was a decision by the British people. Ultimately, he wanted it to go the other way. But the British people have spoken. I have not heard him articulate views about other countries.
Q And the other thing was, there were polls showing that many Britons -- more Britons than not said they would vote "leave" because of the President's remarks that “remain” -- that there was a backlash to it. Have you seen any of the polls?
MR. SCHULTZ: I have not. And it's my understanding that Prime Minister Cameron at the time expressed great gratitude for the President making his views known. Prime Minister Cameron and his team expressed those comments privately to us, but also, I think, they said so in public. The other thing I'll add is that the President decided to weigh in not only because he thought this was in the best interest of the United Kingdom, but it was in the United States' best interest; that there's a number of reasons why the United States' interests are advanced when a strong United Kingdom is in a strong EU. And that's why the President made the case.
Jared, I'll give you the last one.
Q Thank you, Eric. I just wanted to take another stab at John's question about a reversal on Brexit. You said that you were dealing with facts, but you also said --
MR. SCHULTZ: We try to.
Q Well, sure. And you've also said that you hoped for a different outcome. This is a reflection of the will of the people, but there are many parts that come up in the next two years that aren’t referendum-controlled -- a new government formed after Prime Minister Cameron steps down; the Article 50 process writ large the negotiation with the EU -- the potential avenues for something different to happen. Is the administration at all hopeful that one of those paths will lead to some kind of reversal of the will of the people that was expressed that last week?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven’t heard that contemplated. Our view is that the British people have spoken. This was a decision for the British people. Their ambassador said over the weekend that this was irrevocable. And so I haven’t heard anything to the contrary.
Q Last year, after the shooting at the Oregon Community College, the President used language that was perhaps the most political he's gotten about gun violence. He talked about the need to politicize these issues. And most specifically, he talked about that voters should use this as a single-issue lens, a litmus test for who they decide to support, and that he would be using it for candidates that he would support on the campaign trail himself. Of all the things that the President has said, the many instances he's spoken out since Orlando, he hasn’t said that. Josh has said it from the podium, but the President hasn’t said it. And I wonder why.
MR. SCHULTZ: He absolutely stands by that pledge, and let me tell you why. He believes that Congress should take the common-sense steps to prevent gun violence. We've listed a couple already today. That includes universal background checks. That includes making sure the people who are deemed too dangerous to board a flight not be able to purchase a firearm. That includes making sure our ATF has the resources they need to enforce the current laws on the books. That's a current talking point. That's an ever-growing talking point by the Republicans on this, yet they've done nothing to make sure that ATF has those 200 additional staffers. That's something that we've asked for that Republicans have declined to move on.
So the President wants Congress to move on all those things. But to your point, he's acutely aware of the politics. He's acutely aware of the realities of Congress right now, and none of those are likely to move with this particular Congress. That's why he has called for a national debate on this, and that's why he's leading by example. He has said he will not campaign for, he will not fundraise for, and he will not support candidates who don’t support these common-sense measures to reduce gun violence.
Q -- the President is acutely aware of the politics, and that's why he hasn’t said that this should be a litmus test issue since Orlando?
MR. SCHULTZ: Oh, Jared, I think the President has spoken up quite frequently in light of Orlando.
Q -- in the last two weeks.
MR. SCHULTZ: Again, the President has spoken up quite unequivocally about the need for our politics to change on this.
Q Should we expect the President more or less as we get nearer to the election to say that this should be a litmus test issue for voters?
MR. SCHULTZ: I think the President spoke of this at some of the political events over the weekend, so I do think he'll be making the case on this --
Q In public?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes. In public and in private.
Thank you, all.
3:02 P.M. EDT