Press Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz en route Orlando, FL
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Orlando, Florida
3:25 P.M. EDT
MR. SCHULTZ: Good afternoon. Welcome aboard Air Force One en route to Orlando. I have one scheduling announcement and one personnel announcement at the top. So I'll start with a quick scheduling announcement.
But I just want to let you know that after the event in Orlando this afternoon, the President will appear with three YouTube content creators. The President will have a conversation with Liza Koshy, Lia Marie Johnson, and Adande Thorne, known to you all as sWooZie. The President and sWooZie last spoke in January of 2016, after the State of the Union address, as part of our amplification efforts at that time.
I also want to let you know that, as most of you probably have seen, today is Jess Allen’s last day as press assistant at the White House. She started in the Obama family in 2012 as a media monitor on the reelection campaign. She then worked for the Inaugural Committee and came to the White House as a media monitor, and rose through the ranks to press assistant.
I know it's probably fair to say she’s helped all of you out a lot, but that probably pales in comparison to what she’s done for everyone in the Press Office. We are grateful for her service. She’s enormously talented, 100 percent dedicated, and whip-smart. So it says something about her character and her commitment to public service that she’s not going very far. She’ll be at the Department of Education helping out with the public affairs office there. And we wish her only the best and continued success.
And with that, I’m happy to take your questions.
Q Eric, has the White House received notification from the FBI that they’re investigating new emails related to Hillary Clinton?
MR. SCHULTZ: Josh, the only notification we’ve received is the letter that was made public by press reports from Director Comey to Capitol Hill. I should be real precise about this. We have that letter after it was made public. So we did not have advance warning.
Q And you got it directly from the FBI after the press already had it and it was made --
MR. SCHULTZ: I believe we got it through press reports.
Q You didn’t get it separately? You just saw it in the media and read it there?
MR. SCHULTZ: We saw it in the media. That was the first we learned of it.
Q I know you probably don't want to talk about details of an FBI investigation, but can you at least clarify whether there is an actual investigation that is now underway, or are they looking at emails to decide whether to reopen the investigation?
MR. SCHULTZ: Josh, I am going to send you to the FBI for any questions about the nature of their work. The President’s expectation is that all FBI efforts follow the facts wherever they lead. So I’m not going to be in a position to speculate on that. The President believes that decisions made by independent prosecutors must be made irrespective of politics, so I’m not going to be in a position to second-guess their work.
Q The President’s assessment that Hillary Clinton hasn’t put national security at risk through her email practices -- does that assessment need to be put on hold temporarily while this new information that’s come to light is looked at by the FBI?
MR. SCHULTZ: I don’t think anything has surfaced to change the President’s opinion and views of Secretary Clinton. In fact, I have good news for you. In about an hour and a half, we’ll be on the ground in Orlando -- the President will be able to share his views of Secretary Clinton, why he believes she’s uniquely qualified to be the next President of the United States. She happens to bring more experience to this race than any other nominee in American history. The President includes himself and Secretary Clinton’s husband in that analysis. And so he’s going to be proud to support her from now until Election Day.
Q Given that we're only like 11 days out or so from the election, will the President feel compelled to address this in any way, obliquely or directly, at this next rally? I mean, given that all the press attention is heating up today?
MR. SCHULTZ: I would not expect anything on this in the President’s remarks today. I think as a preview of the President’s remarks, you can expect a lot of the themes he’s hit before, touting why he believes Secretary Clinton is uniquely qualified to be Commander-in-Chief.
As you know, they ran a heated campaign primary battle in 2008 against each other, and the President is proud to count himself amongst the converts. He’s gotten to see her work up close representing the United States’ interests abroad, putting the interests of the American people first and foremost. He’s proud of her service as Secretary of State, and that’s why he’s traveling across the country supporting her candidacy.
Q Does it seem accurate to say that the FBI is reopening the case since it doesn’t really appear that the case was ever closed?
MR. SCHULTZ: Tim, I understand the interest, but I’m going to have to refer you to the FBI for them to explain the nature of their work. I’m not going to be in a position to speculate on that.
Q -- going to Florida, the Senate race there -- Marco Rubio seems to be running a lot better than Hillary Clinton in that state. Why are voters splitting tickets in Florida? And is President Obama hoping to put this race back on the map?
MR. SCHULTZ: Thanks, Sarah. I have a feeling the Murphy campaign doesn’t think it ever fell off the map. But I would expect the President to talk about the Senate race in his remarks today. As he’s said before, he believes Congressman Murphy has been a strong member of the House of Representatives for the people of Florida, a strong advocate for them in Washington, D.C. He’s worked across party lines a number of times. One piece that comes to mind was his work to help expand protection of the Everglades.
So he’s going to make the case for Congressman Murphy in his remarks today. He’s also going to contrast Congressman Murphy’s record with that of his opponent. Senator Rubio has a long record that he should be held accountable for, and I do expect the President to bring that up in today’s remarks.
Q Do you think it was a mistake that some national Democratic groups pulled out of Florida a couple weeks ago?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sarah, I used to work at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. I am familiar with how hard it is -- how complicated it is to make decisions regarding spending as campaigns wind down. So I’m not going to be in a position to second-guess those decisions. Those are made by the leaders of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in other campaigns.
I can tell you for the President’s views, that he believes Congressman Murphy should be promoted to the United States Senate, and that’s the case he’ll be making down there in Orlando this afternoon.
Q Can you be a little more clear about the YouTube creators? What is he going to talk to them about?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sure. I’d expect the President to repeat a theme you’ve heard him talk about for a while now, which is the importance of getting out the vote; that each of these personalities have millions of followers, people who pay close attention to their work. And so the President wants to make sure that we are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to getting out the vote.
A lot of these states already have early voting, so a lot of their followers can avail themselves of that right now.
Q Each of the organizations on this plane has millions of followers, probably. I know the Post has set record numbers this year. Why not sit down with other reporters in mainstream media that are on this plane? Would that be something he would think about? And why not do that? Why YouTube creators?
MR. SCHULTZ: I look at your outlets and I see a lot of interviews that the President has given over the years. So I don’t expect this to be the last conversation the President has. But if you guys are interested you can send a request our way.
Q Back on the emails, Director Comey said earlier this summer that due to the intense interest in this case that a higher level of transparency was required. Does the President agree with that? And does he believe that the voters deserve to know what the outcome of this latest wrinkle in the investigation will be before Election Day?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Toluse, you’re right, Director Comey did take the step to -- when he previously announced his decisions regarding this investigation, he gave an extensive statement to the press. He also testified for several hours under oath in front of Congress.
So the good news is that for those seeking information about their efforts here, he’s answered a lot of questions. So I don’t have anything to add to that other than to say if you have questions about Director Comey’s decision to send this letter to the Hill, you should check with his office.
Q What does it say about the President’s -- the nominee of his party that, barring an abnormally fast turnaround for the FBI, if Clinton is elected, there will be an active FBI look at her email situation even as she’s preparing to take the Oval Office?
MR. SCHULTZ: Well, Josh, again, I’ll parse that out a little bit. If you have questions about the scope or the nature of the FBI work, you should check in with the FBI. If you have questions about the President’s views of Secretary Clinton, you should tune in in about an hour and a half, because the President is going to make an enthusiastic, forceful case for why she should succeed him in the Oval Office.
The President believes we've made tremendous progress over the past eight years. That includes the longest stretch of private sector job growth in our nation’s history. That includes advancing America’s national security interest around the world. That includes extending health care to 20 million Americans who didn’t have it before. That includes the highest graduation rates we've seen in recent history. That includes historic investments in clean energy. That includes a deal brokered to shut off Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon. That includes an international deal brokered to reverse the effects of climate change and carbon emissions around the globe.
So the President is absolutely proud of the work we've accomplished over the past eight years. But as he has said, a lot of that is at stake on November 8th.
Q -- any thoughts about Senator Kirk’s comments essentially mocking Tammy Duckworth’s immigrant background?
MR. SCHULTZ: I saw those comments this morning, Josh, from the debate last night. Obviously, as I understand it, Senator Kirk apologized over Twitter. But our views on Congresswoman Duckworth are well-known, which is she’s an American hero, she’s a true patriot. She has served her country in a number of capacities, including this administration, including on the battlefield, and hopefully next in the United States Senate.
Q That's the President’s seat in the Senate and Tammy Duckworth is someone he knows very well. Did he have a personal reaction to that debate?
MR. SCHULTZ: I haven't had a chance to talk to the President about this. But you're right, this seat is personal to him. This isn't just another congressional race. This is one that's important to him.
I don't think you were there, Christi, but we did do an event for her -- the President traveled to Chicago and held an event to speak to her supporters. He feels very strongly that she deserves a seat in the United States Senate. She’s courageously and bravely served this nation in a variety of capacities, again, including on the battlefield, including in this administration, caring for our veterans. And he believes she deserves a promotion to the Senate.
Q Does the President think that Vice President Biden would be a good Secretary of State in a Clinton administration?
MR. SCHULTZ: I will take the Clinton campaign at their word that they are 100 percent focused on earning the 270 electoral votes in order for this to even be a decision for them to take.
That said, I think it should be no surprise that Vice President Biden would surface as a possibility for this role. He has deep foreign policy credentials. And if you look at the way the President approached this decision after he was elected in 2008, he wanted someone with star power on the international stage, someone he trusted 100 percent, someone with strong relationships around the world, and someone with the integrity and character to represent the United States’ interest around the globe. So should Secretary Clinton be in a position to make a similar decision, it sounds like it would be following that playbook.
Q -- Vice President Biden interested in the job?
MR. SCHULTZ: Sarah, this is not my first rodeo. You will have to check with the Vice President to ascertain his feelings on it.
Q Paul Ryan said this morning that Hillary Clinton’s intelligence briefings should be suspended. Do you have a response to that?
MR. SCHULTZ: Tim, what we said on this is that each nominee, after they formally receive their nominations at their respective conventions, are entitled by practice and by tradition to daily intelligence briefings. That is a process that's housed at the Director of National Intelligence office, and it's my understanding that those briefings continue to be a resource to which each candidate can avail themselves.
Q There were more than 100 arrests at the protests over the Dakota access pipeline yesterday. Does the President have a reaction to what’s going on there? And what’s his plan to sort of settle some of the unrest going on there?
MR. SCHULTZ: Toluse, I can tell you that the White House is aware of the situation in North Dakota. I can also confirm for you that officials at the Department of Justice have been in touch with local officials and members of local law enforcement on the ground in North Dakota.
Broadly speaking, I can tell you that the President has had a priority to improve nation-to-nation relationships and consultations more broadly with tribes. That's why he established the White House Council on Native American Affairs, and that's why he's made building stronger relationships and better channels of communications a priority over the past eight years.
Q The White House just held another major meeting of the Transition Council. Do you know why Trump’s transition chairman, Chris Christie, was not attending that? Maybe there were traffic problems in Fort Lee.
MR. SCHULTZ: Josh, you should check in with each campaign about the representative they sent to the meeting. But as you know, this is a priority that's front and center for this President -- making sure that there's a peaceful and seamless transition of power.
The President was enormously grateful for the work that President George W. Bush did in the waning months of his second term to make sure that President Obama and his team could hit the ground running. The President has been working on this for years now, laying the groundwork so that as this election draws near and as a President-elect is determined that that individual and his or her team can hit the ground running.
Q Eric, on a different topic, the Kennedy Center put out a video clip of Bill Murray taking a tour of the Oval Office with the President. And in that, Bill Murray asks the President about whether he has a good license plate. And the President seemed unaware that the presidential limo actually had license plates. That may come as news to D.C. residents who push for D.C. voting rights and statehood. And in 2013, the White House agreed to put the "taxation without representation" plates on the limo. Is the President not aware of that decision? I mean, that's an important thing for someone who is a D.C. resident and may be living here for another year and a half or two years.
MR. SCHULTZ: David, I was part of the team in 2013 that had announced that the license plates were changing over to the "taxation without representation" plates. I know the President was proud of that decision. As you point out, he is likely to be a D.C. resident for at least a year or two after leaving the White House, so he strongly supports District rights.
Q Do you have a written version of those YouTube names?
MR. SCHULTZ: Yes, we'll get you their names. And I should be clear that I believe they will be promoting them immediately following the interviews, which will happen immediately following the Orlando rally. But then it will be up to them when they release the full content of their work.
I can also do a week ahead since it's Friday.
On Monday, the President and First Lady will welcome local children and children of military families to trick-or-treat at the South Portico of the White House.
On Tuesday, the President will participate in a Hillary for America event in Columbus, Ohio. Further details on the President's travel to Ohio will be available in the coming days.
On Wednesday, the President will participate in a Hillary for America event in Raleigh, North Carolina. Wednesday evening, the President will travel to Miami, Florida, and will remain there overnight.
On Thursday, the President will participate in a Hillary for America event in Miami. Afterward, the President will travel to Jacksonville to participate in a Hillary for America event there. And later, the President will return to Washington, D.C.
On Friday, the President will participate in a Hillary for America event at a location that hasn't been announced yet, but when we have those details we will release them.
3:44 P.M. EDT