From: Nelson, Colleen McCain [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Thursday, May 28, 2015 04:59 PM
To: Barnes, Desiree N.
Subject: Travel Pool Report #9 -- JBA arrival and gaggle
Air Force One was wheels down at Joint Base Andrews at 4:40 p.m.
A few minutes later, President Obama descended the stairs of the plane and walked quickly to Marine One.
Aides Kristie Canegallo, David Simas, Brian Deese, Bernadette Meehan and Joe Paulsen followed behind the president.
Marine One lifted off at 4:57 p.m. and is headed back to the White House.
Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz gaggled during the flight back to Joint Base Andrews.
Highlights follow. (standard quotes disclaimer goes here)
Schultz said the president had a “really worthwhile day” touring the National Hurricane Center, discussing climate change, stopping by the shrine and answering questions on Twitter. “The president very much enjoyed” the Twitter Q and A, he said.
On whether an announcement on U.S.-Cuban embassies is imminent: “Our two governments continue to discuss the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and opening embassies in Havana, including different matters that relate to how our embassies will operate,” Schultz said.
There was a round of talks last week at the State Department, he said. The State Department said those talks were productive, but Schultz said he has no definitive announcement at this time.
Schultz said he could not discuss details of the negotiations. “We feel like we’ve made significant progress in the last five months,” he said. “And we’re much closer to re-establishing relations and reopening embassies. These are the first steps in a long process of normalizing the relationship.”
On FIFA: Schultz said he does not have a presidential reaction to read out. “The reason for that is pretty simple: This is an ongoing case, an ongoing investigation at the Department of Justice. So, we take great pains to not only make sure that we do not interfere with an ongoing investigation or that our comments are misinterpreted as appearing to interfere. So, we’re not going to have much for you from the White House on this,” he said.
On Putin’s suggestion that the investigation is an attempt to take the World Cup away from Russia: “We have total and complete confidence in the independent prosecutors at the Department of Justice. Clearly, this was a complicated case that took quite a while to prepare,” Schultz said. “We’re going to leave it to them to prosecute it.”
On whether Obama has any regrets about delaying immigration actions now that they’re tied up in court for the foreseeable future: Schultz said a lot of what the president has done on this front is already being implemented. He pointed to the 2012 policy that provides deferred action to certain DREAMers.
“Additionally, the administration’s enforcement priorities including our focus on deporting felons and not families and many other executive actions on immigration continue to move forward,” he said.
“We do want the courts to move expeditiously through this,” he said. “We feel strongly that we are on solid legal ground.”
Unfortunately, the litigation has created uncertainty for people who would have been able to seek relief under these policies, Schultz said. “With that in mind, we’re proceeding in a way that provides clarity for them, gives us the best chance of success and puts us on a sustainable path to implementing the president’s common-sense policies,” he said.
On threats from Republican candidates to undo the president’s immigration actions: Schultz said it would be a shame if a critical issue such as this became mired in a political dispute.
“That is the reason why we want the court to move expeditiously through this,” he said.
On the USA Freedom Act: This issue has been on the president’s mind dating back to last January, when he made clear that he wanted to take into account the concerns of civil libertarians while making sure that the intelligence community had the tools they needed to investigate and prosecute terrorists, Schultz said.
Obama’s national security team worked closely on the USA Freedom Act, he said. It should pass the Senate without delay, he said.
Schultz said the president deployed his national security team to work with House and Senate leaders “to make sure they understood how valuable this program was to our intelligence community and also how we can make changes and reforms to it to take into account the concerns raised by civil libertarians.”
“Everybody on the Hill is crystal clear on: A. how important this is to the intelligence community and B. what the deadline was. This wasn’t a deadline that should have snuck up on anyone,” he said.
On FIFA’s leadership: Schultz said he has not spoken with Obama about the leadership at FIFA.
On Obama’s meeting with the Sotloff family: Schultz said it was a private session and that he had nothing to add beyond the brief readout that was released.
On the review of the U.S. hostage policy: Schultz said that review continues “in earnest.” “We’ve been consulting with a number of folks, both sort of experts and scholars, national security experts and yes, the families of previously held hostages,” he said.
Schultz said he had no update on the review. It’s principally focused on communication with the families and how to streamline that process, he said.
On the House lawsuit challenging the president’s actions on the Affordable Care Act: “This is the kind of litigation from House Republicans that does nothing to solve any of the problems facing the American people,” Schultz said. “I believe the last thing the American people want is to relive the political disputes over the Affordable Care Act.”
The White House is focused on implementing the law, he said.
“We know that House Republicans have been engaged in a systematic repeal effort, voting to repeal the bill over 50 times and failing to do so, now resorting to the courts,” he said. “We find that unfortunate and a colossal waste of taxpayer dollars.”
On Iraq: Schultz said the White House is encouraged by the Iraqi military forces mobilizing at the order of the prime minister in an effort to push back and retake Ramadi and other parts of Anbar province.
On Nebraska’s repeal of the death penalty: Schultz said he does not have any reaction from the White House. “In the past, the president has expressed concerns about the disparate application of the death penalty, but I don’t have any new position to read out,” he said.
On Hillary Clinton’s visit to Miami: Schultz said he didn’t know of any new Obama-Clinton meetings, and he didn’t know if the president was aware of Clinton’s visit to Florida.
Colleen McCain Nelson
The Wall Street Journal
Sent from my iPhone