Press Gaggle by Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton en route Youngstown, Ohio
12:18 P.M. EDT
MR. BURTON: I want to start with a statement about the attack in Afghanistan today. We’re reminded again this morning of the great sacrifice that our troops and their families are making, and our thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those we lost. While our troops are fighting for a better future for the Afghan people, the Taliban offers only destruction and they have so little respect for humanity that they would murder Afghan civilians waiting for a bus. The United States and Afghan government remain steadfast in our determination to build security, stability, and opportunity for Afghanistan. We are confident that the legacy of our troops’ extraordinary sacrifice will be an America that is stronger and more secure.
Q That’s from the President or you?
MR. BURTON: No, that’s just me.
You guys should have the background on the event in Youngstown.
Q Is that being released on the ground in the same way?
MR. BURTON: Yes.
Q Okay. So it’s -- that will be out by the time we get there?
MR. BURTON: Yes, it sure will -- do you mean the statement or do you mean --
Q The statement.
MR. BURTON: No, that’s not. That’s just me. The background, however, everybody should have.
Q Bill, the sanctions, the U.N. sanctions, what are going to be the targets for those sanctions?
MR. BURTON: Well, obviously we’re working through the diplomatic process on that and more information will be available later this afternoon. But the ultimate target is to stop Iran’s nuclear weapon program.
Q I’m talking banks, shipping -- can you say anything there?
MR. BURTON: That’s all going through the normal course of diplomatic process.
Q Have they decided yet?
MR. BURTON: There’s a strong draft already in agreement by the P5-plus-1 that’s being worked through the process.
Q Is there a formal timeline of when the President is going to announce the independent commission? I know he’s going to sign an executive order. Do we expect that today, tomorrow?
MR. BURTON: I would expect that in coming days.
Q This week?
MR. BURTON: Potentially.
Q Can you say something about what the President hopes to accomplish with the Mexican visit?
MR. BURTON: There should be some more information on this this afternoon, but the visit of President Calderón to the United States is one in which the President -- the two Presidents will help to strengthen the strong bond between the two countries. They’ll talk about a wide variety of shared interests like immigration, security, the economy, and other such issues. But he just looks forward to having such a strong ally here at the White House to strengthen our bond.
Q Bill, the Brazilians have said that they’d like to get into the P5-plus-1 talks with Turkey. What’s the U.S. view on that?
MR. BURTON: I don’t have anything for you on that. I’ll have to get to you when we get on the ground.
Q The President has spent a lot of energy and time engaging Turkey and Brazil. Is there any irritation at all that those two countries appear to be complicating one of the most prominent U.S. foreign policy goals?
MR. BURTON: Well, if you saw what Secretary Clinton said at the hearing, her view is that they acted in good faith. Ultimately our goal here is to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. We weren’t surprised, I don’t think anybody who follows this issue was surprised, to see that Iran was doing something that could help forestall sanctions against them. But ultimately, the answer to that effort yesterday is this strong agreement that we’ve reached with the P5-plus-1. And we’re going to continue to apply pressure in every way that we can. We started with unilateral sanctions. We’re working on multilateral sanctions. And we’re going to continue until Iran lives up to their international obligations.
Q Does the President have any opinion or thoughts about Richard Blumenthal apparently misrepresenting his non-existent Vietnam record?
MR. BURTON: Don’t have anything for you on that. I’ll let you know if we put out any comment.
Q Anything on the Jeremiah Wright letter that’s floating out there?
MR. BURTON: You know, the President’s comments and the comments of his campaign are all still there to see on Google for the last couple of years, so I’m just going to leave it to what we’ve previously said.
Q There’s been I think an increase in some of the hostile rhetoric towards BP coming out of Congress, accusing it of negligence, et cetera. How does the administration feel about having BP as a partner in this cleanup effort? I mean, does the administration still feel that BP is doing what it needs to?
MR. BURTON: Well, our view is that we didn’t choose any partner for this catastrophe. What we’ve done is worked with the responsible party to do everything we can to stop oil from leaking from the bottom of the Gulf and to mitigate the environmental disaster that we’re seeing in the water right now.
We are obviously working with BP because, frankly, they have the equipment that’s necessary in order to get down to the bottom of the Gulf to help plug that hole. And in places where we think we need to make changes or do different things, we’re working with them on that.
So we’re working very hard, but the priority right now is plugging that hole and cleaning up the oil.
Q Why did the President invite Jewish lawmakers to meet with him these evening? What’s the goal of that meeting?
MR. BURTON: This is a meeting where the President is going to -- which the President requested, where he’s going to talk about some of the important issues to the strong supporters of Israel and Congress, such as proximity talks and Iran and things like that. It also offers a forum for them to ask questions of the President on what we’re doing on issues of interest to them.
Q I mean, is he going to be kind of unveiling some new policy or anything like that to them before --
MR. BURTON: I wouldn’t anticipate that. This is more of a check-in and update.
Carol, you got anything back there?
Q What’s that? (Laughter.)
MR. BURTON: You have any questions?
Q Thanks, Bill.
MR. BURTON: Okay. Thanks, guys. Buckle up.
12:25 P.M. EDT