What Obama said on Syria, Boston, and more
April 30th, 2013
10:30 AM ET
1 year ago

What Obama said on Syria, Boston, and more

(CNN) - President Barack Obama is holding a press conference Tuesday in the White House briefing room. His press secretary announced the session early in the day:

Refresh this page for updates as the president's news conference gets underway.

11:35 a.m. ET: According to Obama, Collins told him he was still a competitor, "seven feet tall who could still bang with Shaq."

11:33 a.m. ET: "I told him I couldn't be prouder," Obama said of Collins, who he called a "terrific young man."

11:32 a.m. ET: A senior administration official announced the president's conversation with NBA free agent Jason Collins late Monday afternoon, saying that he called Collins "to express his support and said he was impressed by his courage." The First Lady also tweeted out her support of Collins' decision to come to Sports Illustrated by writing, "So proud of you, Jason Collins! This is a huge step forward for our country. We’ve got your back!"

NBA Center Jason Collins (Getty Images)

11:32 a.m. ET: Obama started to walk off, but came back to answer a shouted question on Jason Collins, the NBA center who came out as gay in a Sports Illustrated essay on Monday. Obama spoke with Collins Monday night.

11:31 a.m. ET: Obama says it's still too early to tell how immigration reform would affect relations with Mexico and other Latin American countries. He'll determine that further on his trip later this week.

11:29 a.m. ET: Obama says again he's confident that immigration reform can pass Congress and make it to his desk for approval. He says if there are discrepancies between House and Senate bills, those can be resolved.

11:28 a.m. ET: Rare that the president holds a press conference without calling on a single wire service or U.S. newspaper. So far he's called on every TV network and then calls last question as he goes to a reporter from El Pais just days before he heads to Mexico and Costa Rica.

11:27 a.m. ET: Final question is from El Pais, one of the highest-circulation Spanish-language papers in the world. The question in on pending comprehensive immigration reform legislation.

11:25 a.m. ET: Obama is touting an announcement his administration made today, that a 21-page form necessary to apply for insurance under the ACA has been shrunk down to three pages. A senior administration official pointed out that the average private insurance form is "about 17 pages long, but we want our enrollment to be easier than dealing with the health insurers."

11:23 a.m. ET: There will always be "glitches and bumps" in implementing government programs, Obama said.

"If you stay with it, and understand what our long term objective is," Obama said, "we're going to be able to drive down costs" and "improve efficiencies in the system."

11:20 a.m. ET: Obama notes that "All the implementation issues that are coming up" for his sweeping health care law are issues that are "related to the narrow group who don’t have health insurance right now."

Earlier Tuesday a White House official told CNN that applications for health insurance coverage under the law will go from 21 pages to three as part of an effort to simplify the implementation of Obamacare.

11:18 a.m. ET: Fifth question is from NBC, who asks how the complicated implementation of Obama's health care law.

Chuck Todd's question invoked retiring Democratic Sen. Max Baucus' recent comments criticizing the Affordable Care Act. The president released a statement when Baucus announced his retirement, but didn't mention the senator's role in drafting or spearheading passage of the ACA.

11:17 a.m. ET: Obama seemed to justify continuing to force feed prisoners at Guantanamo who are engaging in a hunger strike, by saying "I don't want these individuals to die."

11:14 a.m. ET: Obama says he will try again to close the military facility at Gitmo.

"It's a recruiting tool for extremists," he said.

Closing the Guantanamo Bay was a campaign promise Obama made in 2008 that went unfulfilled in his first term.

A photo shows a detainee inside the Guantanamo Bay prison in 2009. (Getty Images)

11:12 a.m. ET: Fourth question is from CBS, on the ongoing hunger strike at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The number of striking detainees has risen sharply in the past few weeks to include more than half of those held at the military-run facility.

11:10 a.m. ET: "I cannot force Republicans to embrace those commonsense solutions" on deficit reduction, Obama said, noting he would continue putting pressure on them by speaking directly to the American people.

11:09 a.m. ET: Jump ball question from ABC's Jon Karl allows the president to lay out his priorities after the first 100 days of his second term. He's focusing mostly on the forced budget cuts known as sequestration, once again blaming Congress for not taking action on a grand bargain-type solution. This has been the president's common refrain on these budget cuts, and he once again calls on Congress to work with him on a "broader deal" rather than passing patchwork fixes like the recent FAA bill.

11:07 a.m. ET: Obama said he's still confident a bipartisan immigration bill will hit his desk in the near future. And he said he's continuing talks with Republicans on a way to reduce the federal deficit.

11:04 a.m. ET: Obama - who responded to the question with an exasperated "Golly!" - said that "rumors of my demise are a little exaggerated."

11:02 a.m. ET: Third question is from ABC. Jon Karl asked "Do you still have the juice" to get your agenda through Congress?

11:03 a.m. ET: About Obama's call with President Putin, yesterday the White House said the two leaders discussed "the close cooperation that the United States has received from Russia on the Boston marathon attack." They also discussed "cooperation on counterterrorism and security issues going forward," including in the run-up to the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

11:02 a.m. ET: Americans won't be intimidated after terror attacks like the Boston bombings.

"We're going to do what we do," he said.

11:01 a.m. ET: This is the first time the president has addressed the chain of intelligence in relation to the accused Boston bombers. In defense of his intelligence community, Obama calls Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's review of that intelligence "standard procedure." The president alluded a phone call placed yesterday to Russian President Vladimir Putin in which the two discussed Russia's role in the previous investigation of the older brother accused of the bombing.

10:59 a.m. ET: An inquiry into how intelligence was shared ahead of the Boston attack by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a normal step, Obama said.

10:57 a.m. ET: Obama praises the immediate investigation in the bombing, and says criticism of the FBI for not further investigating one of the suspects prior to the attack is unfounded.

"It's not like the FBI did nothing," he said.

10:55 a.m. ET: Second questioner is CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin. She asked about the ongoing investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings, and whether any part of that probe has been mishandled.

10:53 a.m. ET: A second question from Fox, on whether survivors of the Benghazi attack have been blocked from testifying, doesn't get much of a response from Obama.

"I'm not familiar with that report," Obama said.

10:52 a.m. ET: The president's first answer on Syria is consistent with the cautious answer he gave to a shouted question last Friday during a bilateral meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan. He continues to call chemical weapon use by the Syrian regime a "game changer," but says the intelligence needs to be solid before any decision is made.

The site of a car blast in Damascus on Tuesday, April 30. (Getty Images/AFP)

10:52 a.m. ET: If further evidence emerges of chemical weapons use in Syria, "that is a game-changer," Obama said. He won't go into potential military options, however.

10:50 a.m. ET: Obama, noting that intel on chemical weapons is still preliminary, says when he makes a decision, "I have to have to facts."

"It's important for us to do this in a prudent way," he said, noting his team has to "establish with some certainty" what has actually happened in Syria.

10:48 a.m. ET: Obama notes that chemical weapons allegations aside, what's happening in Syria is unacceptable.

"The only way to bring stability and peace to Syria is for Assad to step down and to move forward on a political transition," he said.

10:46 a.m. ET: The president joked that this press conference was sparked by Fox News' Ed Henry's departure as president of the White House Correspondent's Association. The Associated Press always gets the first question, so calling on Henry first is definitely a departure from precedent.

He asked about Syria chemical weapons, and a follow up on survivors of the attack on the Benghazi consulate last September.

10:44 a.m. ET: The White House has given a two minute warning to the president.

10:40 a.m. ET: What will Obama be asked in his news conference today? Reporters could ask anything, but expect a question on chemical weapons in Syria. Last week the White House said U.S. intelligence, with "varying degrees of confidence," confirmed sarin was used in the country, which Obama has said is a "red line" for greater U.S. involvement in the conflict.

He could also be asked about the ongoing investigation in the Boston Marathon bombings, which some Republicans have said is being mishandled.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (92 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Questions pre-screened, answers already decided upon by others, and it's just political posturing for more symphathy for him and less for Republicans.

    April 30, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  2. Sniffit

    It will be the usual to-do of reporters who don't qualify as anything remotely close to "journalists" asking loaded questions in hopes of snagging a soundbite that allows manufacture of a controversy that can be sensationalized and perpetuated by their bobblehead pundits as filler for the 24/7 "news" cycle. Throw the false equivalency machine into 5th and get on with it.

    April 30, 2013 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  3. Borderless

    @Sniffit
    Totally right. Because all the real journalists are on The View and The Tonight Show. It amazes me how far gone some of Obama's fans are. Still waiting for the #cutforObama. Funny little people, those Obamakins.

    April 30, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Lia

    Why when israel uses chemical weapons on palestinians the US doesn't step in like they are now with Syria? Makes me wonder who's side are they really on?

    April 30, 2013 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I have two questions for the President. Since the onset of the Syrian crisis, there has been concerns over arming the rebels with fear that arms supplied could end up in the hands of al Qaeda. There's also concerns that Syria may have used chemical weapons on his people and now there's added pressure for this administration to do more.

    Here's my first question: since there's fear that arms supplied by the west could end up in the hands of al Qarda, as an alternative, couldn't the U.S. supply these arms to the armed forces of the twenty two member Arab League so that they can lead the way with military intervention? My second question is since both Russia and China voted against harsher sanctions against Syria a year ago, does the U.S. and other NATO nations ignore Russia and China and support military intervention?

    April 30, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  6. charlie

    El Presidente was late by 30 minutes, to start his press conference, very third world leader like. Shows their poor management. Not to worry, CNN's Democratic Party lackeys and Obama lovers – Wolf, and 3 or 4 others of CNN – held court having been left waiting. To no avail, they talked about pro-Obama issues. I'd like to hear what they would say if Bush had been late to a press conference. Wolf even said that the president doesn't need to give a press conference because there are too many issues that need his leadership. The CNN crew talked up the economy, including what a good thing it is that house prices went up so much. Tell that to people looking for good deals. CNN you are shameless, biased partisans who sound like White House spokesmen for Obama. So much for independent opinions and journalism. I know that this is a meaningless complaint to you because you just DO NOT CARE ABOUT FAIRNESS.

    April 30, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. hjfarmer

    Why is it this guy is never "familiar" with anything that happens as far as Benghazi? Four dead Americans. We cannot hear from surviving witnesses and now whitleblowers are being threatened. Disgraceful!

    April 30, 2013 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  8. Lord Toronaga

    It's good that President Obama said that the chemical weapons could be from the rebels. Screw you Israel. How come our "GREATEST" ally Israel never said that the WMD's were not in Saddam's arsenal ? Never trust those religious maniacs.

    April 30, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  9. Rogue351

    Why does the right have so much hate when most of them are supposedly religious good people. What has happened in this country to turn good religious people into gun wielding raving anti government war mongers ? Taxes that pay for our roads and security, a voting system that elects who we vote for ? Wall Street steals half of everyone’s 401k and it is the government that is the bad guy ? Obama tries to make healthcare a right and that is a bad thing ? Women having equal rights is a bad thing ? Not discriminating against homosexuals is a bad thing ? What is happening ? This is not America.

    April 30, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  10. Fair is Fair

    Lia

    Why when israel uses chemical weapons on palestinians the US doesn't step in like they are now with Syria? Makes me wonder who's side are they really on?
    -------
    Israel used chem weapons on the Palestinians? Really? Please enlighten all of us and share where you obtained this tidbit of wissom... please.

    April 30, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  11. Doug

    Typical CNN and MSNBC, no info on Benghazi.

    April 30, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. Lone wanderer

    Ah here come the war drums. This tyrant-in-chief is just itching to get us into Syria, about as much as Bush wanted into Iraq. He and his cronies are falsifying information about Syrian attacks on it's people while sending money and supplies to the terrorists attempting to overthrow their government. If you do any research and read reports made by actual Syrians you will see a different story. Chemical weapons are being used by the terrorists, not their government. The very same group of terrorists who overthrew Ghadafi for Western interests and who are affiliated with Al Qaeda. But nooo, here in the U.S.S.A. the state-run media complex keeps lying about our true intentions. Wake up, people! Those in power seek to destroy all that we know is true and right in our society! Do you want another endless war to go along with all our others? Do you want this massive debt bubble to burst, and usher a depression greater than anything the world has ever seen? We must take back our government if we want to remain a beacon of hope for the world, not merely a footnote of history!

    April 30, 2013 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  13. hjfarmer

    Once again President Obama is "not familiar" with reports concerning Benghazi. He and the administration were calling it a spontaneous reaction to a video, days after the State Department knew it was a terrorist attack. We have four dead Americans. The country has not been able to hear from surviving witnesses, we have never heard where POTUS was or what he was doing that evening, and now whistleblowers are being threatened by the administration. Time to get some facts (hint hint CNN)

    April 30, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    I have another question for the President. If military intervention in Syria appears to be inevitable now, as a last resort to avert war, is it possible for the UN to consult one more time with Russia and China and try to get them to convince Assad to step down? After all, for the first time in decades China has supported stringent sanctions against Nortk Korea and so did Russia. I believe the time is right to try to get Russia and China to take the lead for a final time and try to convince Assad to step down. Well, its just a thought!

    April 30, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  15. Johnp40

    Obama is searching for a way to back down from his earlier protestations about what he would if ....

    April 30, 2013 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. clakjak

    In other words if you do not go along with what I want , I will make it hard on the American people.And someone re-elected this man??

    April 30, 2013 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. hjfarmer

    Once again POTUS is "not familiar" with reports concerning Benghazi. Four dead Americans and we cannot get the facts from the administration. We have been mislead since we were told it was a spontaneous reaction to a video, which we were being told days after the State Dept was aware it was a terrorist attack. Time to get to the bottom of this (hint hint CNN).

    April 30, 2013 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  18. Cathy

    Sure wish the White House Press would begin acting like competent, unbiased journalists. Please press the President on the Benghazi attack, it's subsequent investigation, it's neglect for pleas for security and the reported silencing of the whistle blowers. Journalists, do your job and stop being on President Obama's campaign team and begin representing the American taxpayers by asking serious questions. We need answers...what happened to this administrations "transparency?" Another failed promise.

    April 30, 2013 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  19. NorCalMojo

    He really painted himself into a corner with this one.

    April 30, 2013 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  20. qazoo

    Thank you Mr. President for your poise and prudent behavior. Please do not let those drag us into another war. Let Egypt be your guide of what can happen with the best of intentions.

    Let Iraq be your guide when those would lie and create phony intelligence to drag America into conflict.
    Iraq was merely a business venture.

    April 30, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  21. ghostriter

    Charlie, you must be the only person in the universe that doesn't understand that higher housing prices is a good thing. Especially to those who owe more on their homes than they were worth.

    And all you Benghaziers....what can I say? The biggest thing your republicans could come up with was a cable signed by Clinton that told them to re-evaluate security. Of course, since there are thousands of cables that have the same signature, that is hardly proof of anything. You guys wanted to know what happened? We've been over that. Maybe if you guys spent more time trying to find out why security could not have been increased or why it wasn't increased, you maybe would find some real answers. Instead, you are just looking for talking points.

    Truth is, if anyone failed, it was the government. Funding was not adequate and security suffered for it.

    April 30, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  22. Truth

    @ Lia

    First – When did Israel use chemical weapons on the Palestinians?

    Second – What chemicals were used?

    Third – Where is this information listed that you gained such knowledge?

    Please inform us all...

    April 30, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  23. jmissal

    So much for that "red line" that must not be crossed.

    The result is an even greater world-wide perception that America is weak, will not act when drawing a "red line" and the likely conclusion by Israel that they are on their own when it comes to dealing with Iran.

    April 30, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  24. BlueChip

    Charlie, please. Don't you get tired of just bashing and bashing this president. Give it a rest, your stamina (as well as Fox's) is impressive, dont you get tired knowing that it is getting anywhere? President has been reelected.

    April 30, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  25. Chris

    Listening to this man speak right now. It galls me that he knows the stealing hard earned benefits from tax paying American and sharing them with those who depend solely on welfare, food stamps, public housing, and manufacturing of babies in order to maintain their "income". He supports them and will take your tax dollars, food from the mouths of tax payers dollars, and anything else he can steal to give it to his government dependent voters.

    April 30, 2013 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
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