James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:01 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, everyone. I have water and a highly-caffeinated beverage because not only did I come back from a quick visit to Afghanistan yesterday with the President, but last night I took my son to the Capitals game. It lasted a little longer than I expected. (Laughter.) Let’s just say his mother was not overjoyed by the fact that we got back around 12:30 a.m. or 12:45 a.m. and he had school this morning.
Q He didn’t even bring home a winner.
MR. CARNEY: It was an epic game -- thrilling, thrilling, thrilling. Yes, I want to say a shout-out to all the fellow fans in section 103. It was awesome. (Laughter.) No, they were great. They were really nice. Everybody was really nice. And they’re going to beat them next time.
I have an announcement to make that I almost forgot about. As I think you’ve probably seen, President Obama will visit Washington Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia tomorrow.
Q Yay, Arlington.
MR. CARNEY: Yay, Arlington. There, he will sit down with a small group of graduating seniors and their parents for a discussion about the importance of preventing interest rates from doubling on student loans. He will also deliver remarks to members of the junior and senior classes, as well as some of their parents.
The Senate has an important vote on this issue coming Tuesday, and we intend to keep up the pressure on Congress to act. We remain hopeful that congressional Republicans will realize now is not the time to refight old political battles and get serious about working with us to ensure that more than 7 million students do not see their interest rates double on July 1st.
That is my top of the briefing announcement. I’ll go to the Associated Press.
Q Thank you. A couple questions on China. Is helping Chen get out of China, which is what he now says he wants, something that the U.S. is willing to work on right now?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question. Julie, as you know, the State Department is continuing to talk to Mr. Chen as well as his wife. As Tori Nuland at the State Department stated this morning it appears as we've seen, that Mr. Chen and his wife’s view of what is best for him and them may be changing. Obviously, the situation is evolving, so I don’t have any comment on the details of discussions that are ongoing both with Mr. Chen and his wife, and with Chinese officials. We have State Department officials in Beijing involved in this matter as I speak.
Q You know, the President says that he brings up human rights every time he has meetings with Chinese officials. He says that kind of broadly, but now we’re dealing with actually one specific case. So I’m wondering if this is a case where he’s willing to risk perhaps damaging the broader relationship with China to take on this case or possibly face questions about whether he’s putting geopolitical concerns, economic concerns ahead of human rights.
MR. CARNEY: I’ll say two things to that. First of all, you’re correct that from the President on down, when we have -- this government, this administration has meetings with Chinese officials, as part of their discussions, issues of -- economic issues, security issues, regional issues and issues of human rights are always raised.
You may remember that President Obama talked expansively about the issue of human rights in Shanghai, on Chinese soil, when he gave a speech there. So that is always part of our very broad and multifaceted agenda when we speak with the Chinese. All aspects of that agenda that we have and the relationship that we have with China will continue to move forward as we deal with this specific issue. And I would note on the matter of human rights, that not just -- we do not just speak broadly about human rights, but we have raised specific cases of human rights issues with the Chinese on occasion.
Q Is the President concerned at all that this case could open him up to criticism, though, from Republicans? We’ve already seen some Republicans say that the President, now, of the U.S. has a responsibility for Chen’s safety.
MR. CARNEY: I can assure you that the President is not concerned about political back-and-forth on this issue. He is focused on the need to advance U.S. interests in our broad-based relationship with China -- very important economic, diplomatic relationship with China. He has and will continue to make it priority in that relationship, or part of that relationship, an open and frank discussion of our concerns about human rights. And that’s his focus. It is absolutely in our national interest for us to pursue that kind of broad-based agenda with the Chinese.
Q And just on one other topic -- why release the bin Laden documents now? Is this timed to the anniversary of his death?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’d say two things. This morning, West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center released 17 al Qaeda-originated documents in the original Arabic with English translations, and with associated commentary and analysis. The documents were recovered from the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden resided prior to his death.
This has been a process of reviewing these documents. The U.S. government declassified them and provided them to West Point CTC for analysis and public release. It’s the appropriate place to do that because the CTC has experience analyzing and releasing captured battlefield documents in the office -- or rather, and has a strong reputation for scholarly work on terrorism issues.
The process of identifying them, declassifying them, reviewing and analyzing them require considerable time. It is also the case that because of the renewed interest on this anniversary, in the mission that led to bin Laden’s demise, that this was deemed an appropriate time to release them.
Q Jay, has Mr. Chen and/or his family officially requested asylum from the United States?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you, as you’ve seen in media reports, that it certainly appears that Mr. Chen and his wife have changed their views about what’s best for him and his family. I think, as State Department has made clear in the discussions that Mr. Chen had with officials, State Department officials at the embassy, he reiterated his firm desire to stay in China, to reunify with his family in China, to be relocated. And our efforts on his behalf worked in accordance with those wishes to try to achieve those goals for him in our consultations with Chinese officials.
His views have changed, as you’ve seen reported. But I can't comment on the ongoing discussions that he and his wife are having with State Department officials or those officials are having with Chinese officials.
Q But the United States is speaking with Chen and his family right now, and presumably, he’s had the opportunity to articulate that desire.
MR. CARNEY: Again, these are ongoing discussions and I can't comment on them. The State Department -- because this is a State Department issue, the nature of it -- might have more details for you. Although, because these are ongoing, I’m not going to -- it would be inappropriate to give a play-by-play of those conversations and consultations.
Q Can you comment on what the nature of the assurances were from the Chinese government that he would be safe before he was released from the U.S. embassy?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the State Department will have more details for you on that. I can tell you that Mr. Chen repeatedly made clear that his desire was to stay in China, to reunify with his family, and to relocate. As part of that, we, on his behalf, had discussions with Chinese officials. Our U.S. State Department officials in Beijing had conversations with Beijing officials to receive assurances -- and did receive assurances -- that he would not be harassed upon release.
And we made clear that we would continue to monitor his case and be in touch with him as time moved on so that we could raise concerns if there were concerns that needed to be raised. Beyond that, I would refer you to the State Department.
Q Is the President concerned that this particular issue could have a wider impact on overall U.S.-China relations?
MR. CARNEY: As I said to Julie, we have a broad-based relationship with China that is multifaceted, that has an economic trade component, security component, regional component, as well as a human rights aspect -- and it goes beyond that, even. And we are pursuing that relationship across the board, and we will continue to do so.
This is obviously a case that’s gotten a lot of attention, fairly high-profile, fairly exceptional, and we are working on that issue. But even as we do, we of course have a very broad relationship with the Chinese that we are continuing to pursue.
Q Mr. Chen has made it clear that he wants to -- and in many interviews with reporters -- that he wants to leave China with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Is the United States willing to take him?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I said previously, Jake, there are ongoing conversations happening, both with Mr. Chen, his wife, with Chinese officials. Those conversations are being conducted by State Department officials in Beijing. I simply can’t give you updates on the nature of those consultations or what their outcome might be.
Q I’m just asking for -- no, is there a willingness?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I’m -- for questions about, hypothetically, seeking of political asylum, you would have to go to the State Department. We are not -- at the White House, that is not an issue that we handle here. That is a State Department issue. And questions about political asylum and how it can be requested would be appropriately addressed there at the State Department.
We are in conversations now -- not we -- the State Department folks in Beijing. And I simply can’t give you a moment-by-moment update on that, but as we have more information or as the State Department has more information, they will make it available.
Q What is the response of the White House to allies of Chen -- human rights activists -- who say that it appears that the U.S. has left him behind, abandoned him?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Ambassador Locke spoke about this as well as Tori Nuland at the State Department. It’s simply not the case. Mr. Chen made clear in his conversations with officials in Beijing that he wanted to stay in China. Was very clear about that -- that he wanted to reunite with his family in China and to relocate in China. And acting on those -- that expression of his wishes, State Department officials negotiated with, consulted with Chinese officials and reached the agreement that was reached.
Q But is it not true that before Chen had this change of heart, that the U.S. had thought that there had been some sort of meeting of the minds -- the Chinese government had assured the U.S. that he would be able to relocate, that he would be safe? And then, domestically within China, the Chinese government put out a statement that suggested no such thing, that they -- the United States was acting in a way that was inappropriate.
So even before he had this change of heart, there was already reason to question whether or not there actually had been a meeting of the minds.
MR. CARNEY: What I can tell you is the nature of the conversations -- more details of which can be provided at the State Department -- the desires that Mr. Chen expressed, the attempt by State Department officials to act on those wishes, to work with Chinese officials to have them implemented in a way that provided Mr. Chen with what he was hoping for, and simply say that those assurances were received in the context of Mr. Chen’s stated desires. For more details, I think the State Department is your best place.
Q When the Chinese government says to the United States government, trust us, he’s going to be fine -- does the United States government believe the Chinese government?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would say two things to that, Jake. First, Mr. Chen said he wanted to stay in China. It is not, obviously our --
Q It’s a different question.
MR. CARNEY: And I’ll get to the second part. But let’s make clear that that was what Mr. Chen said he wanted, it was what -- throughout the conversations, as I understand it, that were held in the embassy. Acting on those wishes, U.S. officials -- State Department officials received the assurances and conveyed those assurances to Mr. Chen, and there was an agreement. We also made clear that we would continue to monitor his case and be in contact with Mr. Chen, and would raise concerns about the case if there were concerns to be raised --again, all within the context of what Mr. Chen’s stated desires were.
Q But that didn’t answer my question, I’m sorry. When the Chinese government says, trust us, he’s going to be fine, does the U.S. --
MR. CARNEY: Well, again -- and my answer to that question is, as part of the agreement that was reached, we made clear that we would continue to monitor this and that we would raise concerns if those concerns -- if concerns were needed to be raised.
Q Mr. Chen also said, reportedly, that he felt pressured to leave the U.S. embassy because he was informed that if he did not, his family might be in some kind of danger or under some kind of pressure. But the pressure that he was feeling apparently came from U.S. officials.
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the statements of several State Department officials, including the ambassador, that that’s simply not the case. At no time did any U.S. official speak to Mr. Chen about any physical or legal threats to his wife or his children, nor did Chinese officials make any such threats to State Department officials.
U.S. interlocutors did not -- did make clear that if Chen elected to stay in the embassy, Chinese officials had indicated to us that his family would be returned to Shandong and they would lose their opportunities -- opportunity, rather, to negotiate for reunification.
At no point during his time in the embassy did Mr. Chen ever request political asylum in the U.S. And at every opportunity, he expressed his desire to stay in China, reunify with his family, continue his education and work for reforming his country. All of our diplomacy was directed at putting him in the best possible position to achieve his objectives.
Q So you’re suggesting that, at best, he misunderstood?
MR. CARNEY: I’m saying that there was no pressure of any kind placed on him by U.S. officials.
Q Can I follow on that? Because when you say, “if there are concerns to be raised,” Mr. Chen told the Daily Beast, I believe, that his wife tells him that she was tied to a chair, beaten and interrogated by Chinese guards after they found out that he had turned up at the U.S. embassy. So how can you possibly believe that the Chinese government can be trusted to really let him reunify with his family if his wife was beaten?
MR. CARNEY: Ed, let me just again, first of all, refer you to the State Department for -- because this is an issue that they handle -- for details. Hold on.
Q But the President spoke on this -- about human rights; it really matters to him. So you can’t just keep saying the State Department. The President said that he --
MR. CARNEY: I think I’ve said a great deal more than that, but I can tell you very clearly that Mr. Chen made clear his desires. When we were -- when U.S. officials -- State Department officials were speaking with him in the embassy, he repeatedly made clear from the beginning that he wanted to remain in China and that he wanted his stay in the U.S. embassy to be temporary. He indicated that he placed priority on reunification with his family and that he sought relocation to a safe environment elsewhere in China.
Acting on his desires, State Department officials had conversations with Chinese officials to try to achieve them. And as part of that, as I said to Jake and others, we -- U.S. officials -- State Department officials made clear to the Chinese that we would -- in the implementation of this agreement -- continue to monitor Mr. Chen’s case, and made clear that we would raise concerns if there were concerns that needed to be raised.
Q While we’re monitoring it, his wife says she was beaten.
MR. CARNEY: And I’m not going to comment on every --
Q Okay, Mr. Chen also says that his 6-year-old daughter was crying from hunger last night. And they kept calling hospital officials to give them food. Finally, after a few hours they got some food. And he said he was reaching out to U.S. officials for help and they weren't getting back to him. So are you doubting his account?
MR. CARNEY: -- there are U.S. officials -- State Department officials in Beijing handling this case, speaking to Mr. Chen, speaking to his wife, speaking to Chinese officials. Your reporters there are in a much better place to speak with State Department officials there to get more details about this. What I can tell you is what our broad disposition was, how it was handled and why, and the fact that it was handled in a manner totally consistent with the desires expressed by Mr. Chen.
Q Quick question about -- the President this weekend is going to some swing states, Ohio and Virginia. There’s been a lot of talk obviously about he’s done a lot of official events at these same states. What will be different this Saturday when he holds these campaign rallies than all the trips he’s already taken to Ohio and Virginia? How do you see this --
MR. CARNEY: Well, he’s taken a variety of trips to those states and others to talk about specific policy issues, to call on Congress to act, for example, to prevent interest rates on student loans from doubling on July 1st, which will happen for 7 million students across the country if Congress does not act. And again -- I mean, the trips he’s made to those states and many others across the country on official business have -- on those trips he has spoken about specific policy issues and called on Congress to act, and addressed other matters related to his responsibilities and duties as President of the United States.
I would refer you to the campaign for more details about Saturday’s event -- Saturday’s events, rather, in those two states are campaign events and they are campaign rallies. And I think they will be reported on accordingly.
Q Last thing on this. Ohio, specifically -- the unemployment rate there is actually better than the national average -- it’s 7.5 percent. So by that statistical measure, it’s gotten better under the President, and yet, this Quinnipiac poll that came out today suggests that voters in Ohio believe Mitt Romney would do a better job in handling the economy. My question being, when the President goes to states like this, how does he convince the American people that the economy is getting better when some of them are saying Mitt Romney will do a better job, even though the unemployment rate has gotten better in that state?
MR. CARNEY: For specific campaign questions about the --
Q Not just about the campaign. Okay, but he goes to Ohio a lot.
MR. CARNEY: -- race itself, I would refer you to the reelection campaign.
The President has and will make a case about the direction we need to move in, economically, in this country. We are still emerging from the worst recession since the Great Depression -- the worst economic condition that I believe anybody in this room has ever experienced. And we have more work to do.
And there is no question that even as things have improved from the situation that the President confronted when he took office -- a time when the American economy was shedding jobs at a rate of 750,000 a month -- it is still absolutely the case that a lot of Americans remain concerned about the economy, concerned about their own economic situation, and understandably so.
What the President has made clear, and I’m sure he will continue to make clear, is that we need to enact policies that will move us forward, that will continue us in the direction that we’ve been going, which is a direction that has led to 25 straight months of private sector job creation, to 11 straight quarters of economic growth, as opposed to severe economic contraction and severe catastrophic job loss that is what confronted him when he took office.
And he will, I’m sure -- I refer you to the campaign -- but in explaining and defending his policies, I can tell you that he will make clear, continually, that it is his strong conviction that it is absolutely the wrong thing to do for our economy to adopt the very policies that got us into this mess in the first place.
Let me move around a little bit. Cheryl, then Dan.
Q On policies -- after the student loan votes coming up, what’s left on the President’s legislative agenda? And can he accomplish anything in an election year?
MR. CARNEY: While there is still much to be done, I can tell you we need to do something about the infrastructure bill that continues to meander its way through Congress. One of the things that we talked about repeatedly, the President has talked about repeatedly, is that we need to keep those construction workers on the job. We need to ensure that we’re funding infrastructure projects that are rebuilding our economic foundation.
The President’s American Jobs Act had within it an element that would fast track some of this infrastructure spending to help the employment picture, as well as create some of this necessary foundation for further economic growth. We need to act on the student loan provision that we talked about. There are a number of things that we need to continue to do. And I think you’ll hear the President talk about the things that Congress needs to do and that he will do as President, even as we move forward.
Remember, when we -- I stood up here in January and got the very same question: How could we possibly get anything done in this election year when there is so much partisanship and gridlock? And the fact is that we did. When Congress was forced into a corner, or rather, House Republicans were forced into a corner, they acted eventually to ensure that the payroll tax cut was extended. Forced into a corner, Congress -- House Republicans acted finally with the rest of Congress to ensure that unemployment insurance was extended. They acted on the JOBS Act and the STOCK Act.
And we expect them to put ideology aside and to act appropriately to ensure that interest rates on student loans do not double on July 1st. And there will be more things that Congress can do and must do to assist our economic development and growth and job creation as these months progress in 2012.
The fact that there is an election this year does not mean that people sent to Washington by their constituents across the country can take the year off. They need to do their job. And the President is eager to work with them and get the things done that will help the economy grow and help it create jobs.
Q Back to China. Was the White House shocked, surprised by Mr. Chen’s change of heart?
MR. CARNEY: The White House, the President have been updated on developments in this matter and kept abreast of them. I don’t -- I wouldn’t characterize anyone’s reaction to it.
Q So these discussions that you were talking about, the ongoing discussions, are they complicated at all because of the fragile relationship that the U.S. currently has with China?
MR. CARNEY: We have a very broad and deep relationship with China that encompasses a number of areas. I wouldn’t -- I don’t think I would agree with the characterization you just gave it. The fact is we have a relationship with China that ensures that we can act on -- in areas where we agree, and we can be frank and clear in areas where we disagree or we have differences. And that kind of dynamic, normal relationship is essential when you are talking about the United States of America and its engagement with a country like China.
So as I said earlier, this is obviously a case that has garnered a great deal of attention and is getting due attention from State Department officials. But it is also the case that we are continuing to pursue our broad agenda with China on a whole range of issues.
Q And on the bin Laden documents, when were they declassified? Did that happen several months ago and then they essentially sat on them to be released this week?
MR. CARNEY: I think I gave the description of that process. I would refer you to -- well, I can take the question, and perhaps West Point and the CTC there can give you more details about their process of once they were declassified, and analyzing and commenting on them, and then the release.
But clearly, as I said, I believe in answer to Jeff or Julia -- I can't remember -- that the fact that there is a renewed interest in bin Laden because of this anniversary was an element of why -- of the timing in releasing them.
I think this is, as the President said I think the other day, that this was a highly significant moment in our recent history -- the mission to take out Osama bin Laden, the man who was the mastermind behind an attack that took nearly 3,000 American lives on September 11th, 2001. And it’s a reflection -- that mission was a reflection of the extraordinary capabilities, as well as the sacrifice and service of our men and women in uniform and our men and women in the intelligence community. And the President is extremely appreciative for the professionalism that the success of that mission represents.
It is also the case that al Qaeda remains a threat to the United States; al Qaeda remains -- the defeat of al Qaeda remains the principal objective of our mission in Afghanistan. And it is a continuing story. And the documents that were able to be declassified and released help provide information to Americans and people around the globe about the state of al Qaeda when bin Laden was taken out, the fact that that organization was under a great deal of stress, had been diminished, but remained a threat and remains a threat.
Q Can I just follow, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Let me go to Margaret.
Q Thanks. Jay, on the question of Terence Flynn, this Republican member of the National Labor Relations Board, who’s been facing allegations over ethics violations, does President Obama have the power to remove Flynn from the NLRB? Does he think that Flynn should go? And what’s going to happen to him?
MR. CARNEY: I think you’ve been in contact with my office on this, and I just don’t -- we’ve been looking into this and I don’t have an answer for you right now. I’ll take that question if I could.
Q May I ask another question about Chen, then, in an attempt to follow up on Jake’s question?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q The State Department is handling the question of Chen, and I guess I’m wondering if you would address whether the President has weighed in yet on what he thinks should happen, or whether he’s just in a mode of getting updates from State and is waiting for a formal recommendation from State before he makes -- ultimately, it would be his decision if he wanted it to be. So where does that stand?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the State Department handles the issues of political asylum, if that is an issue here, first of all. Secondly, I’m not going to give a play-by-play of the President’s internal deliberations within the administration or the White House specifically. So I don’t have anything for you beyond the fact that the President has of course been briefed on this and kept updated about developments.
MR. CARNEY: Kristen.
Q Can you clarify that? The procedure for asylum for such a high-profile case, you’re saying that the President wouldn't have to --
MR. CARNEY: No, no, I’m just simply saying that questions about political asylum are not appropriately addressed from the White House. They are handled at the State Department.
Q But would it ultimately be provided by the --
MR. CARNEY: And I would ask the State Department your question that you just asked.
Q But would it ultimately be --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would address that to the State Department.
Q Thanks, Jay. As you have said, Mr. Chen told State Department officials that he wanted to stay in China. But given --
MR. CARNEY: I said that I’ve seen reports of that nature.
Q Yes. And given some of the traumatic several days that he had leading up to that, is there any concern that this was rushed? That perhaps State Department officials should have given him more time to make this decision?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the State Department for the details of the conversations. Ambassador Locke has spoken at length about this. The State Department spokeswoman has spoken about this. Secretary Clinton has put out a statement about it. I think they have provided a pretty clear picture of the conversations, the circumstances, the agreement that was reached, and the assurances around that agreement. I would refer you to those statements.
Q And I’ve read those statements, but the question is, is the White House at all concerned that perhaps this should have been given more time?
MR. CARNEY: The White House -- we’ve been kept updated about this. We’re obviously aware of the fact that Mr. Chen and his wife have expressed a change of view in terms of what they believe is best for him and his family. And we’re working with him, discussing with him in Beijing. Officials there are discussing with him and his wife what next steps might be taken, and consultations are taking place with the Chinese. But I just don’t have any details about any new developments.
Q Jay, shifting to Syria, quickly -- Syrian forces raided a university on Thursday. It’s another sign of sort of the ongoing violence despite the truce that was implemented and the U.N. monitors that are there. Is there a concern that those steps just aren’t working?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we do condemn the raid overnight of a peaceful student protest in Aleppo that was met with live gunfire, beatings, and the arrests of scores of people. These kinds of acts, which are now routine, laid bare this regime’s illegitimacy, and they underscore the urgent need for a political transition.
Now, we continue to hope that the Annan plan succeeds, and we are working to support it in every way possible. However, it is clear, and we will not deny, that the plan has not been succeeding thus far and that the regime has made no effort to take any of the steps required under the Annan plan, including moving toward the implementation of a full ceasefire.
If the regime’s intransigence continues, the international community is going to have to admit defeat and work to address the serious threat to peace and stability being perpetrated by the Assad regime. If that takes place, we will work with the Security Council, our counterparts on the Security Council, as well as outside the Council as needed -- and that includes, obviously, with the “Friends of Syria,” the broader group of nations that support the Syrian people.
Political transition is urgently needed in Syria. It is certainly our hope that the Annan plan succeeds. We remain, based on the evidence, highly skeptical of Assad’s willingness to meet the conditions of that plan because he has so clearly failed to meet them thus far.
Mara, and then Scott and then Mark.
Q Just another question on Chen. You said to Jake you wanted to put him in the best -- you wanted to put Chen in the best possible position to realize his objectives. Now that his objectives are different, does that still hold true? Do you still want to do everything you can for him to get out if that’s what he and his wife want?
MR. CARNEY: I appreciate the question, and I would simply say that we’re having discussions with Mr. Chen and his wife, as well as with Chinese officials. And clearly, we’re looking to take next steps based on the apparent change of view that Mr. Chen has about what is in his best interest moving forward.
So our diplomacy -- our diplomatic effort in this case has always been focused, as I said before and you quoted me saying, putting him in the best possible position to achieve his goals, the goals that he stated repeatedly. And I understand that he may have viewed --
Q Even if they’re different?
MR. CARNEY: -- and we are having those discussions. I simply can’t give you updates on the nature of those conversations and certainly can’t predict to you their conclusion while they’re happening.
Q But you don’t want to -- I don’t know if you want to dispel the impression that you might be trying to convince him about what might be best for him. You’re just trying to -- that was what kind of hovered over the discussions in the embassy.
MR. CARNEY: First of all -- well, you’re characterizing something that I think you’re guessing at, but the -- we’ve made clear, the ambassador has made clear and others have made clear about what those conversations contained. And I refer you to the State Department. A State Department team is actively engaged in this process and they would have the most detail on it.
And I would simply say that all of our actions have been aimed at putting Mr. Chen in that best possible position to achieve his goals. And now that he’s expressed a change of view, we’re continuing to have conversations with him about how to move forward.
Q Thanks, Jay. I know you said you wouldn't give a play-by-play, but will you tell us if the President has spoken directly to Secretary Clinton about this?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t know that he has -- whether he has or not. He’s certainly been briefed and updated by staff here, the national security staff.
Q Has he spoken to any Chinese officials, here or there, about this?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of, no.
Q And has he considered making any public remarks on this? There is some sense that the President might give a view of his expectations.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I believe he was asked about it. He was asked about it, but I don’t -- I have no --
Q But since this has happened?
MR. CARNEY: I have no scheduling announcements to make.
Q Do you believe there is any value in him setting out his expectations, what he expects from the Chinese government in relation to the Chen family?
MR. CARNEY: I think I will allow these ongoing consultations and discussions to take place, and point you to those for now.
Q If I could focus on the early part of the Chen episode for a moment. The decision to actually go out and get him, and bring him back to the embassy involved sending out a vehicle, which was then involved in a high-speed chase with Chinese security. One senior U.S. official has characterized it as a sort of a “Mission Impossible” operation.
I’m just wondering whether there’s any concern that so aggressively acting on behalf of someone -- going out into the city, allowing cars to be chased by local security officials -- sets some kind of precedent for how the U.S. deals with dissidents. You’ve now had two high-profile cases of people being at U.S. facilities in the past six months. They’re very different cases, but in this case the U.S. very aggressively went out. Does that set some kind of a precedent?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think those are very interesting questions, Mark. I would note at the outset that cases of dealing with dissidents, cases of request for political asylum, there are procedures and processes in place at the State Department to handle those. And I would refer you there for those policies and how they take shape and how they’re implemented.
As for the details of this rather extraordinary case with exceptional circumstances, I think Ambassador Locke has discussed it and I would point you to his comments. This is -- as he has said and others have said -- an extraordinary situation and an exceptional case. It was a high-profile dissident who was seeking medical attention, and he was provided that attention at the embassy.
Q Is there any thought being given to -- in light of the extraordinary nature of this case and of the Wang Lijun case a few months ago -- of a review of these rules and procedures?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, again, those are rules and procedures that are developed and implemented by the State Department, and I would refer you to them on that question.
Q I know you said the President -- you said you didn’t know if the President spoke with Secretary Clinton. Has he spoken with Ambassador Locke?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a list of all of his conversations. I’m not aware that he has, Jared. But I don’t give routinely his -- a list of his daily conversations. I can just simply tell you that he’s been regularly and adequately updated on the situation, and had briefings and consultations on it.
Q And more broadly, what do you think this says about China in general, about the Chinese government? What are the White House views on that?
MR. CARNEY: I think we have a broad and multifaceted level of --
Q Not the relationship, but about China in general.
MR. CARNEY: -- engagement with China. And where we have differences, we make clear those differences. We discuss them openly with Chinese officials, and that will continue to be the case.
Q It’s interesting that Tom Donilon is going to be in Moscow a couple of days before the inauguration of Putin. Is he carrying a message from the President? What is his mission there?
MR. CARNEY: Well, he is there to have discussions on a broad range of issues that we have as part of our relationship with Russia. So I don’t have a specific list of them, but he is going to be having discussions again on the broad range of issues that we engage on with the Russians.
Q Does the White House have a sense yet of how the Putin -- the new Putin administration will treat the whole idea of a reset?
MR. CARNEY: I would say two things. One, the President addressed this when he met with President Medvedev recently in Seoul. I think he addressed that issue also when they met in -- they had a bilateral meeting in Hawaii, if I’m not mistaken, as part of his Asia trip.
And as an observer of Russia, I know you know that our policy towards Russia, our engagement with Russia, the reset policy, if you will, has obviously proceeded with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin in power. And we will continue to pursue our relationship with Russia in accordance with our interests. And where we have disagreements, we talk about them openly and clearly. And we continue to pursue, as we have for the past three years, areas where we can enhance and deepen our relationship and work together internationally on issues, whether it’s Iran or Afghanistan. And I think that will continue.
Q Do you think there is any potential for narrowing the differences on Syria between the U.S. and Russia at the G8, for example?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as I mentioned before in answer to a question about Syria, so far, implementation of the Annan plan has not succeeded and is not succeeding. If it fails, there will be a need for consultation with our Security Council counterparts -- I believe Secretary Clinton has discussed this -- and obviously, that would include the Russians.
What has tragically been made clear by Assad’s brutality, his continued brutality since the Russian and Chinese veto of the United Nations Security Council resolution, is that the bad actor here is clearly the Assad regime. That is evident to anyone watching this situation. And I think that would be a point of discussion if the Annan plan fails.
Q Jay, just curious about the logistics as the President moves into campaign mode. We know every incumbent has to have the obvious White House support, but speechwriting, will that now transfer to the campaign for these political trips? Advancing, these sorts of things, how is that going to be --
MR. CARNEY: I’ll have to take that question. It will be done in accordance with rules that have been in place for this administration and previous administrations. We will do it completely by the book. It is the case, as you pointed out in your question, that the President is President 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He requires staff to support him.
And there are other requirements that come with the office, regardless of the type of travel he is on, including communications requirements and security requirements. And that will be the case as his engagement in the campaign increases, a fact that I’ve made clear from this entire year. And that will be a steady -- there will be a steady increase of his engagement as we move closer to November.
Q Thanks, Jay.
April, and then Donovan.
Q Just two questions. Basically, as you’re calling Mr. Chen’s situation an extraordinary case and there are processes and procedures in place, is Mr. Chen allowed at this point, if he so chose, to change his mind to ask for asylum? At this point, is he allowed to do that -- with his wife?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we certainly -- we don’t decide what he is allowed to do. We are having ongoing conversations with him. He has expressed a change of view in a number of venues, and I think that those conversations with State Department officials are about his view now of what he believes would be best for him and his family.
Q I understand, but we understand that these changes --
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think you’re asking me would he be granted political asylum if he were asked, and I am not in a position in any case to characterize or decide who would be able to ask for political asylum. That’s, again, a question for the State Department.
Q And also, the last question -- is there still a touchy situation with this White House and the Muslim world as it relates to the death of Osama bin Laden a year ago?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the way I’d answer that question is within the narrow context of the constant vigilance that we have as we monitor the threats against the United States. And I think we talked about that in the run up to the anniversary of the bin Laden mission.
I think that we continue to engage -- I mean, that’s sort of the narrower aspect of -- because you asked about the bin Laden mission, did that create any -- increase any threats or risks to the United States. And I think, as we talked about in the run up to the mission, that as part of his regular meetings on homeland security with John Brennan and others, he was updated on steps that were taken, both seen and unseen, in anticipation of potential actions by al Qaeda or other groups in a form of vengeance for the bin Laden mission.
Now, I think you’re asking more broadly about -- look, I think that we have -- this administration has from the beginning engaged in a way that -- with countries around the world, including Muslim nations, that have made clear both what U.S. national interests are, and the fact that we look for allies around the world in an effort to combat actions by al Qaeda and other terrorists.
Q The reason why I asked that, I watched the Brian Williams piece last night and it was clear that the administration wanted to mark the anniversary, this momentous anniversary. But at the very end, it was clear the President and Secretary Clinton were very strategic in their words and they made it a point to say this is not a high-five moment. They were very strategic in how they parsed their words to talk about the occasion, the momentous occasion of the fact that he is no longer a threat to this country.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think, as President Obama’s predecessor also made clear, our fight here is with al Qaeda. It is not with Muslims. It is not with a particular country. It is with the terrorists who attacked us and who threatened the United States and our allies around the world. And I think, also, the comments that you cite reflect the fact that we know clearly and have made clear repeatedly, both in comments by the President and statements by other officials and in the implementation of our national security polices, in Afghanistan in particular, that al Qaeda remains a threat.
And while the removal of Osama bin Laden from the battlefield as well as other senior leaders of al Qaeda were very important accomplishments in the goal of completely defeating al Qaeda, that goal itself has not been reached yet. And that’s why we have to keep the fight up and we have to keep the pressure on al Qaeda and its affiliates, and we have to remain vigilant.
Donovan, I promised you. And this is the last one. Sorry, guys.
Q I’d like to follow on Mark’s question a little bit, on the beginning of the Chen episode. And Ambassador Locke did describe today this kind of “Mission Impossible” operation that the U.S. undertook to bring him into the embassy. And my question is, did the President approve that?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I don’t have a blow-by-blow of the conversations that the President had. I would refer you to the comments by Ambassador Locke, who is obviously very engaged in this issue and spoke publicly about it. But I just don’t have any updates for you on that.
Thank you very much.
1:48 P.M. EDT