Begin forwarded message:
From: "Lee, Carol" >
Date: January 10, 2017 at 5:24:57 PM CST
To: "Gabriel, Brian A. Jr. EOP/WHO" >
Subject: Travel pool report #3
AF1 was wheels down in Chicago at 5:19pm local.
Josh Earnest gaggled toward the beginning of the flight.
Topics: AF1, POTUS's speech, Senator Sessions hearing, Russia sanctions legislation, vaccines, inauguration
At the event at Joint Base Andrews, POTUS and FLOTUS spent time with the crew that maintains AF1 to thank them. It was the first time he had the opportunity to speak to them as a group.
Some stats per Mr. Earnest:
This flight to Chicago is the 445th AF1 "mission" with President Obama aboard.
Mr. Obama has flown 2,799 hours and 6 minutes on AF1 or a total of 116 days.
He's taken the plane to 56 countries and 49 states, with Maryland being the only state AF1 has not flown to. He said POTUS will miss AF1.
On legislation aimed at Russia, Mr. Earnest did not take a firm position or say whether Mr. Obama would sign it if it passes while he's still in office. He said POTUS "certainly does believe there's an important role for Congress to play" in dealing with Russia. He mentioned hearings and legislation as possible roles. He said POTUS has judged each proposed legislative package individually and said he hasn't seen the legislation.
On Mr. Obama's mood heading into tonight's speech, he said POTUS is "not one to be overly sentimental" but it would be unrealistic for anyone in his position tonight not to feel some nostalgia.
He said POTUS will express optimism about the future of American democracy and the country. He'll talk about the importance of grassroots and change from the ground up, as well as his confidence in the younger generation of Americans. He won't talk about his post-POTUS role. Mr. Earnest said "there will be a time and place" for Mr. Obama to speak at length about that, and that time and place isn't tonight.
On the confirmation hearing for Senator Sessions, he said he didn't know if POTUS had seen any but the hearing was on TV in Mr. Earnest's office so he caught some of it. He said that Senate Republicans didn't approach Attorney General Lynch's confirmation hearing with "the same haste" they've shown for Mr. Sessions'.
On health care, he said "It's too early to judge exactly whether or not this is a constructive step" in response to a question about Republicans possibly repealing and replacing closer to the same time. He also said he doesn't believe Republicans have an alternative to Obamacare.
On Robert Kennedy's visit with President-elect Trump and vaccines: He said there is "no scientific ambiguity" about the value of vaccines and that the refusal of parents not to vaccinate kids who can receive them puts other kids at risk. He said there is "no good scientific justification" for that.
Mr. Earnest was asked about POTUS inviting Mr. Trump to ride with him in the presidential limo to the Capitol for the inauguration and he said the White House intends to have a schedule that honors the kinds of traditions that have been
Before leaving the press cabin, Mr. Earnest remarked on his role of taking the press corps' questions every day. "It's been almost always fun," he said. He also noted that he fell for a WH photog prank during his first AF1 gaggle and let them photograph him. In honor of that, today's gaggle was opened up to the photographers in the press cabin.
Also traveling with POTUS on AF1 but not listed in previous pool reports:
The Wall Street Journal