James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:10 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: The Associated Press, start us off. I have no announcements. Welcome.
Q Edward Snowden has said he would like to have asylum in Russia, that he’s willing to agree to their demand that he not continue to release information to them. What is your message today to Russia about what the implications of granting that to him would be for their relations with the United States?
MR. CARNEY: Our position on Mr. Snowden and the felony charges against him, and our belief that he ought to be returned to the United States to face those felony charges is as it was. And we have communicated it to a variety of countries, including Russia. So it’s no different than it was. And I would simply say that providing a propaganda platform for Mr. Snowden runs counter to the Russian government’s previous declarations of Russia’s neutrality and that they have no control over his presence in the airport. It’s also incompatible with Russian assurances that they do not want Mr. Snowden to further damage U.S. interests.
But having said that, our position also remains that we don’t believe this should, and we don’t want it to do harm to our important relationship with Russia. And we continue to discuss with Russia our strongly held view that there is absolute legal justification for him to be expelled, for him to be returned to the United States to face the charges that have been brought against him for the unauthorized leaking of classified information.
Q Can you tell us a little bit about the President’s session today with the Attorney General? And has he accepted Eric Holder’s report on media relations and investigations?
MR. CARNEY: The President did meet with the Attorney General today in the Oval, and the Attorney General did discuss with him and present to him that report. I believe the Department of Justice will be releasing that report this afternoon, but I’d refer you to them.
Q So if they’re releasing it this afternoon, that indicates that the President did accept it as it was presented?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I think that’s a fair assessment to make. We won’t have any statement or comment on it before it’s released, but I believe the Department of Justice is releasing it today.
Q And on Secretary Napolitano’s departure, do you have any information for us on who her replacement might be or any timeline for that decision?
MR. CARNEY: I have no names to float, if you will. I would say that the President greatly appreciates Secretary Napolitano’s four-plus years of service. And if you think about it, those four and a half years account for almost half the existence of the Department of Homeland Security. And she’s done a remarkable job. And on her watch there have been just numerous issues that have required her expert attention, from the H1N1 virus to the recent bombings in Boston, to Hurricane Sandy to the devastating tornadoes in Joplin and Tuscaloosa and elsewhere; the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; floods that we’ve seen in this country.
And her department, with her leadership, has functioned at a very high level. And it’s also the case that with Secretary Napolitano at the helm, we have greatly enhanced our border security, including the doubling of Border Patrol agents. And that is due in some measure to her leadership, and the President appreciates that and wishes her well.
On the timeline for a replacement, I believe it’s been put out that she remains in her position until early September. And the President will be very deliberate about looking at potential successors for that very important position. But I have no announcements to make on it.
Q Jay, are you saying there would be no repercussions to U.S.-Russian relations if he's granted asylum there?
MR. CARNEY: I think that I'm not going to speculate about something that hasn't happened.
What I would say is that we don’t believe this issue should do harm to the relations between Russia and the United States. And we are working with the Russians and have made clear to the Russians our views about the fact that Mr. Snowden has been charged with very serious crimes, and that he should be returned to the United States where he will be granted full due process and every right available to him as a United States citizen facing our justice system under the Constitution. And we'll continue to have those conversations, and we've made very clear our views.
Q Have the Russians communicated anything to you recently about him?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don’t have any specific conversations to read out except that obviously we are in conversation with Russian officials, as we are with other officials from other nations when we've talked about issues of where -- what nations might be transit points or potential destinations for Mr. Snowden were he to leave the transit lounge of the Sheremetyevo Airport.
But the conversations that have been held reflect everything that I'm telling you now in terms of our views on this matter.
Q And Snowden wrote in an open letter that the U.S. government is engaged in an unlawful campaign to deny him his right to seek asylum. Is that how you see it?
MR. CARNEY: No, it is not. He has been charged under the law with three felonies, very serious crimes. And every aspect of the United States system of justice is available to him upon his return to the U.S. to face those charges. And that’s how our system works.
We have communicated with nations around the world our view that Mr. Snowden should be returned to the United States because of the charges filed against him and because -- which is normal practice when you've been charged with felonies and the revocation of his passport, because he does not have travel papers or a valid passport, that he ought to be returned to the United States, and where he will face justice in a system that affords defendants all the rights that every American citizen enjoys.
Q How does the next Homeland Security Secretary nominee not get tangled up in the politics over immigration reform in this debate that's happening up on the Hill, and for that matter, this whole mess that started yesterday with the nuclear option between Senate Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell? It just seems like it could be a complicated mix.
MR. CARNEY: Complicated as a potential nominee. Let me address the first question related to immigration. As I noted earlier, Secretary Napolitano has done a remarkably effective job in fulfilling one of the major responsibilities that that position requires when it comes to overseeing the border security function of our federal government, the CBP, and overall enforcement.
And we’ve seen -- again, as I’ve talked all week about, we’ve seen all the metrics by which you can measure effective enforcement; and changes in enforcement demonstrate that there have been great improvements. And that is -- another measure of that is the fact that the number of border security agents has increased so dramatically in the last five years.
I don't expect that the transition that will take place at the department will -- when it comes to enforcing immigration laws will become entangled in the politics over legislation that has broad bipartisan support, and support from law enforcement communities when it comes to enforcement issues, and from faith communities when it comes to the morality of immigration reform, and business communities when it comes to the economic and business benefits of immigration reform. So we don't expect that to be an issue.
On the other matter, look, we have made clear that the President is frustrated with the obstructionism that we’ve seen from Republicans when it comes to the confirmation process. Not only has he made it clear, he included sections about it in two State of the Union addresses, including in 2012. And so we share the frustration that Senator Reid has talked about.
We have highly qualified executive branch nominees up on the Hill, their nominations up on the Hill today who continue to be obstructed, who have been held up for over a hundred days. And that's not how the system should work. So when it comes to next steps, we defer to Senator Reid. We are very appreciative for all he has done, all he is doing and will do to ensure that the President’s qualified nominees are confirmed.
Q Does the President believe that the Majority Leader should go through with the nuclear option? Because when Senator Obama was over there in the Senate, he once said when the roles were reversed and the majority was threatening to use that option at one time, he said, “I fear that the partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything.” And that is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. So given his previous statement on this, he would agree with Senator McConnell on this, right?
MR. CARNEY: I think he would agree with this statement from Senator McConnell: "I think the President is entitled to an up or down -- that is a simple majority vote on nominations, both to his Cabinet and to the Executive Branch, and also to the Judiciary." That's Senator McConnell in the spring of 2005.
The fact is, citing then-Senator Obama's comments, is that the situation has gotten exponentially worse since Republicans gained -- since in the last several years, under Senator McConnell's leadership of the Republican minority, the obstructionism has doubled.
The number of days that nominees have to wait, the kinds of obstacles and gridlock created by this refusal to take up and consider and confirm highly qualified nominees. I look at Gina McCarthy -- there is no question about her qualifications. She is, by any measure, enormously qualified for the position to which she has been nominated. In fact, it's a position very similar to the one she held in the state of Massachusetts for then-Governor Mitt Romney. More than a hundred days her nomination has been pending for a floor vote.
Richard Cordray, here is somebody with support from Republicans and Democrats -- someone who has Republican state attorneys general who support him, someone about whom not a single Republican senator has had a bad thing to say when it comes to his qualifications for the job to run this very important agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. And he has done an amazing job as he has held that position and waited for actual confirmation by the Senate. It's been two years. But why has it been blocked? Because Republicans in the Senate simply don't like the fact that the CFPB's existence is the law of the land. They lost that battle.
The President insisted that the CFPB be created and that it had strong powers to protect consumers when it came to their rights using credit cards, on student loans and mortgages. And there's an enormous number of examples that demonstrate how effective already that bureau has been in protecting consumer rights. Republicans don't like that.
Q But shouldn't the President be urging Senator Reid to be cautious here? Because exercising that option would potentially fundamentally change the nature of the Senate. It would -- people say it would become essentially like the House. This is sort of playing with fire, is it not?
MR. CARNEY: The President said in 2012, in the State of the Union address, "Some of what's broken has to do with the way Congress does its business these days. A simple majority is no longer enough to get anything -- even routine business -- passed through the Senate. Neither party has been blameless in these tactics. Now both parties should put an end to it. For starters, I ask the Senate to pass a simple rule that all judicial and public service nominations receive a simple up or down vote within 90 days." Unfortunately, that recommendation has not been taken up by Republican leadership in the Senate.
And contained within that, those remarks that the President made in the well of the House at a State of the Union address, was an acknowledgement that this is a problem that has existed when -- and has been exacerbated in some ways by both parties. But there is no question that it has gotten -- the world today is quite different than it was in 2005 when it comes to this issue in the Senate, and the way that it’s been run, and the obstructionism that we’ve seen from Republican leaders in the Senate and Republican members in the Senate. It is not the same and it is a real problem.
When it comes to Senator Reid, we defer to him on Senate procedure, but we appreciate the support he’s given and will give to the confirmation of the President’s qualified nominees.
Q Thank you. Back to Snowden just for a moment. You said that the administration is working with the Russians. What does that mean? What does that look like? Is the President directly involved in these conversations? Is the Vice President?
MR. CARNEY: We’ve had conversations with Russian officials at a variety of high levels, and the President actually does have a call scheduled with President Putin for later today. That is a call that has been on the books for several days. So he will have that conversation.
Q Will you read it out?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sure we’ll have something for you on it.
Q You could put it on the mult -- save you some readout time. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: You think that’s a good idea?
Q I do. (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: Yes, I expect you do.
But, Susan, the point is, is that we’ve made clear both in public and in our conversations at a variety of levels -- including through law enforcement channels, which is the normal mechanism through which something like this would be resolved -- that Mr. Snowden is wanted on three felony charges.
We have a history of effective law enforcement cooperation with Russia, with the Russian government, including very recently in the wake of the bombings in Boston at the Boston Marathon, and that through those channels and through the normal procedures, we believe Mr. Snowden ought to be expelled from Russia and to make his way home to the United States, where as a U.S. citizen he is afforded all the considerable rights that defendants are afforded when they are charged with crimes. And he has been charged with three felonies and with very serious crimes in the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive, classified information.
Q There’s an important summit later this summer. What impact would this have with their decision on whether the President goes to that summit?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President has and plans to -- has said and plans to travel to Russia for the G20 Summit in September, and I certainly don’t have any updates on his travel schedule beyond what we’ve said already.
Q Did the President accept the entire report from Secretary Holder? Did he make -- ask any changes?
MR. CARNEY: We'll have a statement or some comment on it. The report hasn't been released, so I'm not going to comment on it at this time. I shouldn’t be -- the report hasn't been released, so when it is released we'll have something to say about it.
Q You cannot say whether Mr. Obama objected to any parts of it at all?
MR. CARNEY: No, the President accepted the report, but I think we'll have something to say about it later once it's been released. I don’t want to have a discussion about a report that none of you have seen. I want to be helpful and wait to have that discussion after you've seen it.
Q Did he accept with reservations?
MR. CARNEY: No. Yes, he accepted the report.
Q Thank you.
That’s all you got for me? Bill?
Q About it.
MR. CARNEY: Excellent.
MR. CARNEY: I like that. (Laughter.) Madam Welker.
Q I want to ask you about Afghanistan. Earlier this week you said that a decision about post-2014 troop levels was not imminent. Can you be more specific? Does the President want to make a decision by a specific time, or is there a timeline?
MR. CARNEY: I really can't be more specific because it's just not imminent. I think that we're talking about troop levels beyond the end of 2014, which is 18 months from now. And we are in the process of further drawing down the troops that are in Afghanistan -- roughly 60,000 currently -- and we will be continually drawing those down as we hand over more and more responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
The President will be discussing with his national security team the issue of a potential residual force post-2014. But as I've said earlier in the week, the range of options depends on a number of things, and the range is full from -- I mean, it goes to zero, as we've discussed as a possible option, because the issue isn't a number, it's the fulfillment of our policy objectives. And the two policy objectives we have when it comes to a post-2014 security relationship have to do with continuing to counter the remnants of al Qaeda, and to continue to train and equip the Afghan National Security Forces.
And we will -- the President will, with his team, examine our options in how we fulfill those policy objectives, working, of course, with the Afghan government in those discussions. And we have discussions ongoing with the Afghans about a bilateral security agreement, we have a very important strategic partnership agreement that we continue to implement with them that has to do with our -- what will be regardless a very substantial commitment to Afghanistan and Afghanistan's future, including a strong civilian component.
Q Jay, on Thursday, a number of lawmakers, including Robert Menendez, made the argument that the President should make a decision soon to reassure Afghans that the United States would continue to support them. Does that add to the urgency? Is there a sense of urgency? And does he agree with that assessment?
MR. CARNEY: There is not. The President is going to be very deliberate about this, as he has been when it comes to assessing our options and our policy posture with regards to Afghanistan.
We have, when it comes to assurances, 60,000 approximately men and women in uniform in Afghanistan today fighting for and bleeding for the fulfillment of a policy that is aimed at ridding that region of al Qaeda and preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for al Qaeda or al Qaeda-like extremist organizations in the future.
Q But I think the argument that lawmakers are making is that the uncertainty --
MR. CARNEY: It’s 18 months from now. I think that it is entirely proper, and I think the American people would expect that we would be very deliberate about these decisions as we continue to draw down troops in keeping with the President’s promise and his policy objectives. And when the President has an announcement to make, he’ll make it. But it is not imminent.
Q And has President Karzai given any indication that he’s getting closer to resuming peace negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: I don't speak for the Afghan government, but I haven’t heard any updates on that.
Q And has President Obama been working actively to try to resume those negotiations?
MR. CARNEY: We have an excellent team that works on these issues and continues to work on them.
Q Is the President working on it specifically?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not sure what that means. As you know, we’ve talked about this issue several times this week. The President is always focused on and concerned about our troops in harm’s way in Afghanistan and the fulfillment of his policy in the region. But that's something he thinks about and deals with every day. When it comes to our negotiations with Afghanistan and the Afghan government, we have very able personnel in Kabul. We have very able personnel in the Pentagon and at the Department of State who engage in those discussions regularly.
Q Jay, can you elaborate beyond what was in the readout yesterday about what President Obama told Chinese officials about the failure of Hong Kong to extradite Ed Snowden?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that we’ve been very clear about our disappointment with the way that that situation was handled. I think Deputy Secretary Burns raised this and discussed this during the S&ED I think yesterday or earlier today. I think he said yesterday, quote -- this is a paraphrase rather: We were very disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues. At the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue this week, we made clear that China’s handling of this case was not consistent with the spirit of Sunnylands or with the type of relationship, the new model that we both seek to build.
The President also expressed his disappointment and concern with China’s handling of the Snowden case in his meeting yesterday with the S&ED co-chairs.
Q Did China respond in any way?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the Chinese. I think it’s very -- we’ve been very clear and candid about our views on this. We’ve also been very clear and candid, as I think the S&ED reflects, that we have a broad and important relationship with China and we have had -- that these conversations, this dialogue was very useful and productive on many fronts. But that fact does not take -- or does not diminish our concern about the way the Snowden circumstance was handled.
Yes, in the back.
Q Thank you. Going back to the Afghanistan question on the zero option, why is this being considered in the first place itself? And isn’t this opposed or contradictive to what the President has been saying of committing to Afghanistan people that they have -- the U.S. would have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan?
MR. CARNEY: We do have an enduring commitment to Afghanistan, and whether we have a residual force there or not, that commitment will continue. And the commitment will continue through our Strategic Partnership Agreement, it will continue through a security relationship, which will involve our efforts to continue to go after the remnants of al Qaeda in the region and to help train and equip the Afghan security forces.
The question of whether or not there’s a residual U.S. troop presence is something we have to negotiate with the Afghan government. We’re not going to make a promise about a residual force if we haven’t negotiated the circumstances of that with Afghanistan.
So it has to be the case, as we’ve said as long back as -- as far back as January, that one option is no troops. I’m not saying that’s a preferred option, I’m just saying to suggest otherwise would be to make assumptions about negotiations that have not reached a conclusion.
Q Is the last option that the U.S. would have for Afghanistan?
MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry, what is that?
Q Is the zero option the last option? The last --
MR. CARNEY: I’m not going to express preference, because the purpose here is not to check a box and fulfill a quota in terms of the numbers of -- these are U.S. men and women in uniform who would be in a difficult assignment in harm’s way, as they are today. And the choices we make about that are made very carefully and have to do with very specific policy objectives. And when it comes to a residual force in a country like Afghanistan, that is something that would have to be negotiated with the Afghan government. It is not something that we would presuppose until it’s decided.
April, and then Bill.
Q I want to go to the Trayvon Martin case. The jury will be read instructions after lunch today. Is there any concern from the White House about what could happen after the jury makes its decision, particularly as there was a lot of news right after the situation happened, after his murder, after his death, it was racially charged? Is there any concern from the White House about reaction to a verdict?
MR. CARNEY: Well, April, I would simply say that this is an ongoing trial, as you just mentioned. And I’m not aware of the timeline exactly, but you just said that the jury is going to be read instructions. To suggest our views on -- or anyone's views here, whether it's the President's or anyone else's views here -- on an ongoing trial that's about to go to jury I think would be a mistake, and potential outcomes and what might happen in an outcome.
This is a jury in Florida, in the United States that's fulfilling its function -- a trial and a jury. And we'll obviously be made aware of the results of that when they happen. But I wouldn’t want to characterize our views about it or the President's views about it, because it's an ongoing trial.
Q But it was such a --
MR. CARNEY: No, I understand that it was --
Q It was racially charged.
MR. CARNEY: -- obviously, it got a lot of attention at the time, and there were a number of issues around it. And the President commented on it. But we're in a trial phase and apparently, soon a jury phase. And at this time, I just don't have any further comment.
Q And the last thing -- I'm going to go back to what I asked you yesterday on the Justice Department. They were investigating --
MR. CARNEY: I just don't -- again, whether the Justice Department is investigating other matters is something that the Justice Department would answer. I don't have an answer to that.
Q Well, let me ask you this. Would the Attorney General ever, at any point -- even at the time when the President even commented on it -- would the Attorney General have made the President aware of what their plans are in this, or is that something that they can do by themselves?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it's certainly something they can do by themselves. But I'm commenting on something that I just don't know about, so I would refer you to Justice.
Q A couple of things. First, on food stamps, yesterday as you know, the House of Representatives passed a bill, which zeroed out the SNAP, or food stamp program. Would the President sign a farm bill without some continued funding in there for food stamps, which has been there since 1973?
MR. CARNEY: We put out a statement of administration policy on this specific bill -- deeply, deeply flawed bill. And that says, "The administration strongly opposes H.R. 2642, the Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2013." And it is -- just reading further -- "It's apparent that the bill does not contain sufficient commodity and crop insurance reforms, and it does not invest in renewable energy.” I mean, I can -- “The bill also fails to reauthorize nutrition programs," which goes to what your question is about, "which benefit millions of Americans in rural, suburban and urban areas alike. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a cornerstone of our nation's food assistance safety net and should not be left behind as the rest of the Farm Bill advances. If the President were presented with this bill, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill." That's a standard form of statement of administration policy.
For decades, Congress has worked in a bipartisan fashion to pass real, comprehensive farm bills. The Senate continued that tradition this year. And unfortunately, House Republicans decided instead to pursue an exercise in partisanship. They passed a bill that lacks real commodity and crop insurance reforms, does not invest in job creation in rural America, and fails to reauthorize, as I said, nutrition programs which benefit millions of Americans. And for that reason we oppose it.
I think there's been some pretty interesting comment on the House action, including by conservatives, and pretty damning comment. It is I think fairly remarkable -- I know that these are two different issues, but the Congress has before, and the House in particular, a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would reduce the deficit, according to the CBO, by $850 billion -- would help our economy grow; would help our labor force become more productive; would introduce into our business stream new entrepreneurs with job-creating ideas; would further secure our border significantly. Huge upside, an upside with a lot of conservative goals achieved within this comprehensive immigration bill, including deficit reduction.
And then, at the same time, they pass a farm bill that cuts out this nutrition assistance program to millions of Americans in the name of deficit reduction, far less significant deficit reduction. It smacks a little bit of hypocrisy to me, but not just me.
Q A second just quickly. The other side of the Snowden issue is that there have been more and more comments this week from members of Congress that the intelligence community, starting with Director Clapper, either lied to Congress or misrepresented what the NSA program is all about. Is there any attempt or will there be on the part of the administration to explain, okay, exactly here's what we're doing and here's why we need to do this?
MR. CARNEY: First of all, Director Clapper has addressed this specific instance and I refer you to his comments. Director Clapper is doing --
Q But they’re saying --
MR. CARNEY: Well, here are the facts. Congress has been briefed in numerous venues on these programs, including public testimony, paper briefings, and classified sessions. I have seen reports of 22 briefings on the 702 program -- 22 briefings -- and nearly as many on the 215 program. But if you don't believe me, hear what Leader Reid and Senator Chambliss and Senator Feinstein and Congressman Rogers and Congressman King have said about this. They have all said that members were fully briefed on these programs. And there are not that many things that those particular members of Congress -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- agree on, but this is one of them. They have been briefed on these programs.
And I think a lot of -- Representative Mike Rogers: “The committee has been extensively briefed on these efforts over a regular basis as a part of our ongoing oversight responsibility over the 16 elements of the intelligence community and the national intelligence program.” The collection efforts under the business records provision in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act “are legal, court-approved, and subject to an extensive oversight regime.” That’s the Republican Chairman of the House.
So we are very much interested in, and the President is very interested in, as he has said, in a dialogue about these issues and a debate about these issues, and in providing as much information as we can about these programs, mindful of the very sensitive nature, by definition of intelligence programs that are designed to, as their main goal, thwart potential terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies.
But it is simply not the case that Congress and the relevant committees and individual members have not been informed about these programs.
Q But, Jay, you know there are senators -- Senator Merkley, Senator Udall, Senator Whitehouse, others -- several members of Congress --
MR. CARNEY: I know that there are some members who missed briefings --
Q -- who said that, yes --
MR. CARNEY: I know that there are some members who missed briefings in order to --
Q But they said they asked specific questions and they were told misinformation --
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I think -- again, the fact is they've known about these programs, they've approved these programs, they've provided oversight over these programs. I know that some members don’t show up for these briefings. I know that some members choose appearances on cable television over these briefings, but the briefings exist and have happened.
Q Thank you.
MR. CARNEY: I'm sorry, and then Lisa. Go ahead.
Q Thanks very much, Jay. Does the President think that folks like Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International are being used by Edward Snowden when they show up at a meeting with him in the secure part of the airport? Does the President have any message for groups that stand up for what they describe as human rights --
MR. CARNEY: I would say a couple of things about that. One, those groups do important work, but Mr. Snowden is not a human rights activist or a dissident. He is accused of leaking classified information, has been charged with three felony counts, and should be returned to the United States, where he will be accorded full due process.
And on the issue of human rights organizations in Russia, meeting with Mr. Snowden, I think we would urge the Russian government to afford human rights organizations the ability to do their work in Russia throughout Russia, not just at the Moscow transit lounge.
Q And on the meeting with the Attorney General today, do you know whether the Attorney General brought to the President any information about whether communities in Florida have asked for Justice Department help or support?
MR. CARNEY: The meeting today was about the report the Department of Justice is going to issue. I wasn’t in the meeting, but I don’t have any further information about it beyond that specific subject.
Q But did it come up at --
MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of, but I wasn't in the meeting. Again, it was about this particular subject that we discussed and the deadline for the release of this report.
Q If the community asked for help, would the --
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Justice Department, as I said before.
Yes, Lisa, sorry.
Q When did the President find out that Secretary Napolitano was going to be leaving? And did he make the case that she should stay through the remainder of the --
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a specific -- obviously, the Secretary advised the President of her intentions, but I don't have a date for that. I can tell you the President believes Secretary Napolitano has done an excellent job and is enormously appreciative of her service. She’s been doing it for four-plus years. And while all of these senior positions in a White House or an administration are very demanding, hers is particularly so. And so those four and a half years represent a lot of hard work and a lot of -- the dealing with a lot of very stressful issues, no question. And Secretary Napolitano has met every challenge.
So I think he’s very understanding when someone who has devoted so much of her time and focus and energy to the fulfillment of her responsibilities in that job wants to move on. And he is very appreciative of the fact that she has left a legacy as a Secretary of a department for nearly half of its existence that her successor will be able to build on in a positive way, and in fact will be able to build on even more if comprehensive immigration reform is passed; if the Senate bill that we have seen emerge from the Senate becomes law, because that bill provides substantial new resources for border enforcement and substantial and important changes to our legal immigration laws that allow for enhanced legal immigration in a way that will bring enormous benefits to our economy. So the President is very appreciative for her service -- of her service.
Q And is he concerned about how having this -- having a confirmation hearing for this post while the immigration debate is going on could influence the debate or anything --
MR. CARNEY: The President will nominate a very qualified person to fill that job. And as we’ve discussed in general, the President believes that qualified nominees for executive branch positions ought to be considered and confirmed expeditiously.
Q And finally, Senator Schumer recommended Ray Kelly for the job. Is he under consideration?
MR. CARNEY: I think it is far too premature on the day that Secretary Napolitano announced that she’s leaving in a month and a half to speculate about successors. We will be -- the President will be very deliberate in examining his options.
Q Thanks, Jay. I have a question about Russia, actually. A big concern among the international LGBT community about anti-gay legislation and anti-gay violence in that country, there were some calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. At the end of last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that bans the promotion of homosexuality to minors. Is the President aware of these calls for a boycott? And is he open to the idea of withdrawing U.S. participation for the Winter Olympics?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of the calls. I can tell you that the President and this administration makes clear to our allies and partners and nations around the world our belief that LGBT rights need to be respected everywhere. But I don’t have a specific -- I haven't discussed this with him. The State Department may have more information, but I don’t have a specific response from him or from the White House on that particular issue.
But broadly speaking, we make our concerns about these issues known to countries around the world. And I think this came up in the President's trip to Africa and he made that clear.
Q Can you tell me if he came up in the bilateral talks between President Obama and President Putin?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I'm aware of, but, again, we make our concerns about issues like this known to countries where appropriate.
Q One other topic. I know you've answered a lot of questions about that LGBT workplace nondiscrimination executive order, but there's one more thing I wanted you to address. In an email that was leaked to me in June, last month, the treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, Andrew Tobias, told LGBT donors that he's spoken with people in the administration about it and everyone is for it, and it will get done, but the holdup is a process that is broader than just this one very important and long-delayed agenda item. Do you dispute that a process is holding up this executive order?
MR. CARNEY: I've been very clear in answer to your questions, and questions the other day, that our firm belief is that we think that an inclusive employment nondiscrimination act, which would enshrine into law strong, lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity is necessary. And the President and his administration will continue to work to build support for it.
And we saw an important step taken this week when ENDA passed out of committee in the Senate with some Republican support. We're not there yet, and I will not argue with you if they say that there are obstacles that ENDA faces to becoming law. But the fact is this was a good week in progress towards passing ENDA, and the President strongly supports the efforts undertaken by Senate Democrats and some Senate Republicans to encourage the passage of this legislation, and we'll continue to work with the Congress to see it done.
And the rest of that -- our position has been well known about ENDA as the best means to pursue lasting and comprehensive protections against employment discrimination of LGBT individuals.
Q I understand that, but why do you think the DNC treasurer would say that a process --
MR. CARNEY: I'm not familiar with an email that you said was leaked to you. I can tell you what I know here in the West Wing of the White House.
Q One last question on this. There are three Senate Democrats who don’t co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor and Joe Manchin. As we get closer to the floor vote in the Senate on ENDA, do you expect the President will reach to them to try to get them on board with support?
MR. CARNEY: I expect that we will try to encourage every member of the Senate to do the right thing and support that legislation.
Voice of America.
Q Syria question, if I may. In these discussions you're having with the committees on the Hill, Jay, what are you saying about the confidence -- as we heard from Ben Rhodes last month -- confidence in the relationships with the opposition council -- the military council and the channels for aid in terms of those all being stronger. Is there stronger confidence now than there was when we all heard from Ben Rhodes where he outlined the broad parameters of the lethal aid effort?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, as we said at the time we announced the expansion of our assistance to the Supreme Military Council, we cannot detail every type of support that we are providing, nor can we provide details about the timeline or logistics of delivery for every type of assistance. Our assistance covers a range of different purposes, and the goal of our assistance is to strengthen both the cohesion of the opposition and the effectiveness of the Supreme Military Council and its efforts to defend the Syrian people against a repressive regime that has shown no boundaries in its willingness to kill civilians.
We have, with our allies and partners, worked to strengthen the elements of the Syrian opposition that have, in our view, the best interests of the Syrian people in mind and the future of Syria in mind. And we continue to work with those elements. And we, as I said the other day, believe that the enhanced assistance that the President announced is very important given the assault that Assad has been waging of late with the assistance of Hezbollah and Iran. And that's why the President believes it's necessary to move forward with that assistance.
Q Is there headway being made in terms of conversations up on the Hill about speeding up the process?
MR. CARNEY: I can simply tell you that we continue to consult closely with members of Congress.
Q Thank you, Jay -- two quick issues. The first one, I want to approach the DOJ report from a slightly different angle. Setting aside whatever is in it, can you tell us about the President's commitment to make changes in this area on the executive side? I know you've talked about supporting the shield law. And should we see this as the last word on this subject or part of a continuing conversation?
MR. CARNEY: I think the President made pretty clear his views about this issue and this matter on several occasions earlier when it was a focus of a lot of attention here in the briefing room and, broadly, with the press in Washington. I don't want to characterize next steps until everyone has had a chance to see the report. But the President's views about this remain what they were, and I think he expressed them publicly, so I can't improve on them.
Q And the part about would it be the end of the conversation or just part of the conversation?
MR. CARNEY: I don't think the conversation ends. I think the conversation on this issue and other issues are -- I would expect them to continue. I'm not sure what you mean by the conversation to end. This is an effort to examine an issue in a way that reflects the President's belief about the importance of the job that reporters do. And I'll let the Justice Department speak to its report and then we'll have some comment or statement afterwards.
Q And the other issue -- I don't want to jump to the week ahead here, but can you say a little bit about the visit of Bush 41 on Monday?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that the President and First Lady will host former President George H.W. Bush and Former First Lady Barbara Bush, and members of the Bush family for an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award. The Points of Light is -- those of you might remember from the George H.W. Bush administration -- the world's largest organization dedicated to volunteer service. It mobilizes millions of people to take action that is changing the world, and recognizes individuals who are making a difference through service and volunteerism.
The President very much looks forward to this event and he has a very high regard for President George H.W. Bush and Former First Lady Barbara Bush and the Bush family. So I know he and the First Lady are looking forward to this event and always looking forward to an opportunity to be with the former President and the former First Lady.
Q On Guantanamo, on forced feeding, the judge ruled that she couldn't stop it but the President could. It's Ramadan, and as you know, one of the principles of Ramadan is it’s a time of reflection and not a time for conflict. These detainees are being strapped down and are having tubes inserted into them against their will. So they are being forced into a conflict situation. So it’s going against the principle of Ramadan.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate -- I don't have anything new for you on our position. The President obviously does not want these individuals to die. He is understanding of the circumstances around this issue. He believes very strongly and is working to make happen that we need to close Guantanamo Bay. And as you know, he talked about this not that long ago and is taking steps to double -- redouble our efforts to bring that about mindful of the fact that we face obstacles from Congress.
On the specific handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, I’d refer you to the Defense Department.
Q So let me come at it from a different way if you don't want to address the Ramadan issue. The President believes in a woman’s right to choose and a woman’s right to privacy. Does he also accept a man’s right to privacy and a man’s right to choose control over his own body? In other words, that if a man chooses that he doesn't wish to eat, that he has that right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, I understand the complexity of these issues, Victoria, but I don't have anything more to say beyond what I said earlier in the week, which is the President is obviously concerned about this, but is also concerned that he does not want to see individual detainees die. And for more details about the handling of detainees, I would refer you to the Defense Department.
Q Does he believe that they have the right to --
MR. CARNEY: Again, Victoria, I just don't have anything more for you on that.
Q Back to Syria for a second. Can you detail any assistance that is in the hands of the rebels at this point in the last month and what it is?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think I just said we’re not going to detail all types of assistance that we provide, and that's the case. If you’re asking has new assistance arrived, I would refer you to the Defense Department about the assistance programs that they oversee, or the State Department about the assistance programs that they oversee.
The fact is we’re working with Congress on the issue of the President’s announcement of enhanced military assistance, but I don't have anything about specific shipments to provide to you.
Q Can you say yes or no if assistance is -- any kind of assistance is in Syria?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’ve been providing assistance to Syria, including the Syrian Military Council, for some time now. So the answer is, yes, there is and has been.
Q Thanks, Jay.
MR. CARNEY: All right, last one, yes.
Q On July the 19th, the FISA Court order that enables the collection of Verizon data expires. Does the administration plan to renew or amend that order?
MR. CARNEY: That's a question I think best addressed to the Department of Justice. I don't have anything for you on it. But, thank you.
Q Can you do the week ahead, Jay?
Q Jay, one last one --
MR. CARNEY: Yes, Steve. Is it breaking news from your --
Q The phone call -- no, no, the phone call with President Putin, is it specifically about Snowden, or is it a myriad of topics?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I don't think that's the only topic that will be discussed. I’m sure that will be discussed. I just want to make clear that it was something that we put on the books a couple of days ago for today, and I’m sure we’ll have some sort of readout about it for you.
Q And he’ll ask to return Snowden?
MR. CARNEY: I don't want to predict or put into the President’s mouth words that haven’t been spoken. I’m sure President Putin is aware of our views about Mr. Snowden, and I know that issue has been discussed at a variety of levels between our two governments.
If I may, I will read the week ahead. As I just mentioned, on Monday, the President and the First Lady will host former President George H.W. Bush, former First Lady Barbara Bush, and members of the Bush family for an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the President will attend meetings here at the White House. On Thursday, the President will participate in an ambassador credentialing ceremony here at the White House. On Friday, the President and the First Lady will host the Diplomatic Corps reception for the Foreign Diplomatic Corps at the White House.
And that's your week ahead. Have a great weekend, everybody. Thank you.
1:59 P.M. EDT