August 9th, 2013
02:50 PM ET
5 years ago

Live Blog: President Obama takes questions

Washington (CNN) - Before heading to Martha's Vineyard for a week-long family vacation, President Barack Obama took questions Friday from reporters at the White House.

He hadn't held a formal, solo press conference since April 30 - and topics ranging from the economy to government surveillance to terror threats arose at Friday's question and answer session.

The president also announced new measures to instill greater transparency in the government snooping programs that were revealed earlier this summer, which critics said amounted to massive federal overreach.

4:31 p.m. ET: Looking for a breakdown of the president's news conference? Look no further. From CNN Capitol Hill Reporter Lisa Desjardins: POTUS Newser By the Numbers.

4:02 p.m. ET: CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin notes that Obama didn't seem to get "prickly" during Friday's press conference, compared to previous sessions.

The testiest moment came during his defense of Obamacare, during which he went after the GOP for trying to repeal his law without offering their own plan.

4:01 p.m. ET: And that wraps up the president's news conference - he took eight questions, and spoke for just under an hour.

3:58 p.m. ET: On immigration, Obama says he's well aware that no bill will completely solve the problem of undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

"There are very few human problems that are 100% solvable," he says.

3:56 p.m. ET: Next question, from NPR: How much leverage do you have in getting Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform?

3:55 p.m. ET: Obama says he won't engage in negotiations with Republicans that include the threat of a government shutdown.

Asked about the last time he spoke with Boehner, Obama said he thought it was probably before Congress left for the August recess last week.

3:53 p.m. ET: CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin asks Obama about the GOP threat of a government shutdown unless Obamacare is defunded.

3:51 p.m. ET: "There are going to be glitches" in implementing Obamacare, the president concedes, but he adds that shouldn't detract from the law's benefits.

And he adds that Republican threats to shut down the government unless Obamacare is defunded aren't in the interest of the American people.

3:49 p.m. ET: Going after Republicans for the first time in the news conference, Obama says the GOP's "holy grail" is making sure 30 million Americans are uninsured.

He says their assertion is that "people will be better off without it."

3:48 p.m. ET: Obama is asked to explain why the employer mandate - which required businesses with 50 or more workers to provide employees health insurance - was delayed by a year.

He said that aspect of Obamacare was not the "core" of the law, and that other elements were already being set into motion.

3:47 p.m. ET: In response to a question about when the perpetrators of the Benghazi attack would be charged, Obama said it would take time.

“I also said I’d get Bin Laden, but I didn’t get him in 11 months," he said.

3:46 p.m. ET: Obama is asked a two-part question by Fox News: one on the terror attack a year ago in Benghazi, Libya, and one about the president's health care law, which is in the process of being implemented.

3:43 p.m. ET: "We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism," Obama says in response to questions about current terror threats.

But when pressed about operational tactics used to kill terrorists - namely, drone strikes - Obama refers back to a speech earlier this year.

3:41 p.m. ET: Obama says it's still accurate to say that al Qaeda's traditional core in Afghanistan and Pakistan has been reduced, but that threats from affiliate organizations, like al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, still remain.

3:41 p.m. ET: The fifth question, from ABC News, is about recent terror threats, and Obama's campaign assertions that "core al Qaeda" had been decimated.

3:39 p.m. ET: The president's news conference is ongoing, but House Speaker John Boehner released a response, via spokesman Brendan Buck:

“Much of any public concern about this critical program can be attributed to the president’s reluctance to sufficiently explain and defend it. Transparency is important, but we expect the White House to insist that no reform will compromise the operational integrity of the program. That must be the president’s red line, and he must enforce it. Our priority should continue to be saving American lives, not saving face.”

3:38 p.m. ET: Obama says he's "comfortable the current system is not being abused," and that if Americans fully understood the law, they would agree.

3:35 p.m. ET: Obama denies that he's changed positions on government surveillance, but that he's now supporting greater transparency in the programs.

He suggests embedding some "technological fixes" that provide another layer of oversight into the surveillance systems.

3:33 p.m. ET: The fourth question, from the Wall Street Journal, goes back to the government surveillance programs. "Why should the public trust you" on the NSA programs, asked Carol Lee.

3:29 p.m. ET: Obama acknowledges the choice of the next Fed chair will be one of this "most important choices" of his second term.

But he says that criticism surrounding Larry Summers, who was the director of the National Economic Council earlier in Obama's administration, is unfair, and that both potential candidates could successfully fill the role.

"Both are highly qualified candidates," he said, adding he would make the decision in the fall.

3:27 p.m. ET: A third question, from CBS News, is about the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. Many see two top choices: Larry Summers and Janet Yellen.

For more, watch this from CNNMoney.

3:26 p.m. ET: "I think people have questions about this program," Obama says, adding it's important for the government to provide answers about how citizens are being monitored.

"There's no doubt that Mr. Snowden's leaks triggered a much more rapid and passionate response than would have been the case if I had simply appointed this review board."

3:24 p.m. ET: Information about the classified NSA programs has come out in "drips and drabs," Obama says, and has included a lot of misinformation about how the programs are administered.

"Our laws specifically prohibit us from surveilling U.S. persons," he says.

3:23 p.m. ET: Asked about the man who leaked classified NSA documents, Obama says, "No, I don't think Snowden is a patriot."

He adds he would have rather the NSA programs be discussed without their details being leaked illegally.

3:21 p.m. ET: Obama, asked by NBC about his personal relationship with Vladimir Putin, says "I don't have a negative personal relationship" with the Russian president.

He adds that analysis of the two leaders' body language often focuses on Putin's posture. "He's got a kind of slouch like a bad kid in the back."

3:17 p.m. ET: Obama says the U.S. must "take a pause" in dealing with Russia to assess where the relationship stands.

He notes that while he won't attend a bilateral meeting with Putin in Moscow, he will attend the Group of 20 summit in St. Petersburg in September.

And he adds a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, is not on the table, despite a new Russian law banning "homosexual propaganda."

3:16 p.m. ET: First question, from the Associated Press, is about the U.S.-Russia relationship in the wake of Edward Snowden being granted asylum in the country.

"There's always been some tension" since the Cold War ended, Obama said, noting there was both cooperation and competition between the two nations.

UPDATE: Here's the administration's white paper, laying out their legal rationale for the government surveillance programs.

3:14 p.m. ET: Lastly, Obama says he'll create a group of outside experts to review the technology used in the government surveillance programs.

Obama said "we can and must" be more transparent in the government surveillance programs.

3:12 p.m. ET: Third on Obama's list: greater efforts toward telling Americans what the government is doing in relation to domestic surveillance. One step is creating a web site that will be a "hub" for greater transparency.

3:10 p.m. ET: The second area Obama wants greater transparency: the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court (or FISC).

He said the court should hear from people raising civil liberties concerns.

3:09 p.m. ET: Obama spelling out four areas where he'd allow for additional transparency in the NSA surveillance programs.

The first - Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows for collection of metadata in phone calls.

3:08 p.m. ET: Obama says it's "important to ask questions" about privacy amid revelations of government surveillance programs.

"It's not enough for me, as president, to have confidence in these programs. The American people have to have confidence as well," he said.

3:06 p.m. ET: Obama, beginning his news conference, says he's focused both on delivering his economic message while fulfilling his "number one duty as president" - keeping Americans safe.

3:04 p.m. ET: The White House delivered a two-minute warning to the beginning of Obama's news conference.

3:02 p.m. ET: Reporting from Moscow, CNN's Phil Black says the relationship between President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin is at "an all-time low."

Expect Obama to answer questions about the U.S.-Russia relationship Friday.

3:01 p.m. ET: Obama is expected any second. Here's a shot of the East Room Friday.

2:58 p.m. ET: Reporting from the East Room, Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin says reporters are expecting six questions or so over the course of an hour-long press conference. Obama is known for giving lengthy answers during questioning sessions.

2:54 p.m. ET: What might the president be asked Friday?

What would you ask Obama? Let us know in the comments below.

2:51 p.m. ET: When Obama takes questions in the East Room Friday, it will be his third formal press conference of his second term, and the fifteenth time he's taken questions from reporters.

In all, he's completed 124 press availabilities as president, with 25 full-length press conferences.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (269 Responses)
  1. Ethan Kiley

    This is the exact thing our fore fathers didnt want!

    August 9, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. allen

    If Obama really wants to annoy Russia and raise america's standing in the world, then just begin bombing Syria.

    August 9, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. John Q. Public - Every Man

    Will President Obama, a lawyer occupying and usurping the executive branch "checks and balances" include surveillence programs to monitor the judicial terrorists in America? You know... the swine who sell our statutory rights to highest bidders regardless of facts, evidence, rights, legal doctrine, stare decisis, and honor? Will Obama, a lawyer, police his fraternity? No? Then oust these culprits from legislative and judicial branches of government.

    PRESIDENT OBAMA: Will you police the terrorists acting as judges and their colluding lawyer pals in our broken judiciary?

    August 9, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  4. The Jackdaw

    soooo......the NSA will read this post and find me......

    August 9, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  5. FUBAR

    What a fool this failure is. We can blame our education system for educating (or not educating) the nimrods who elected him...TWICE!!
    And what the hell is this Sniffit joker sniffing...glue?? Can't have an active brain cell left working.

    August 9, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  6. John Q. Public - Every Man

    My "concerns" are being censored... What a disgrace America has become. You send our youth to fight and die for nothing.

    August 9, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  7. Tdog

    today NSA, yesterday economy, day before mortgages, prior focus areas: bail out Greece, immigration, middle class, jobs, blah, blah, blah. Where are the results? Why do you people believe anything he says when he actually gets nothing done?

    August 9, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  8. Voice in the Desert

    I'm confused. Wasn't "trust and transparency" what Senator Obama ran on in 2008? I didn't believe him the, and don't believe him now. And that's not because he necessarily trying to lie to the public, but because taking jabs from the outside is a lot easier than trying to actually run things from the inside. He, like most presidents, has found that some things are easier said than done, and some things, once you get the insider's information, make a lot more sense.

    August 9, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  9. MIchael

    Oh My God another week long vacation... Your kidding I have had 3 days off this year so far. On top of it you drop some more lies about the spying programs that trample our rights as US citizens. I can no longer believe anything this administration says. THIS IS NOT THE AMERICA I GREW UP IN OR LEARNED ABOUT IN SCHOOL, this is a disgrace!

    August 9, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  10. John

    Good speech,hey righties listen up.

    August 9, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  11. NorCalMojo

    How can we believe them now? How long before another "traitor" risks his career and liberty to tell us what's really going on?

    They've already proven to be liars on this very issue. The trust is gone. It's time for transparency.

    August 9, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  12. DNA

    Thanks for standing up for our rights, Obama -> NOT!

    August 9, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  13. DNA

    Good question, Carol Lee, good question.

    August 9, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  14. BeatMage

    "He adds he would have rather the NSA programs be discussed without their details being leaked illegally."

    How do we discuss something if we don't know it's happening?

    August 9, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  15. Bronco Bomma

    Obama is the Joe Isuzu of Presidents. "Trust me..." he says...

    August 9, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  16. TJ

    First time I've seen news "reported" via Twitter. Anyone that can read should be insulted by this.

    August 9, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  17. Jesse


    "I wonder if you'll need a password to log into the CIA's website on transparency."

    Well, one thing's for certain: you don't need a sense of humor to be a right wing nutjob demagogue.

    Well name calling will not get you anywhere with anyone? I think your mother is ashamed of you.

    August 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. gregorymunson

    Yeah like having a Review Team will help. Surely a "Review Team" will make sure the Head of the NSA won't lie like they did to Congress.. These must be a very scary group of people. I don't trust Obama at all anymore.

    August 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  19. John

    blah blah blah blah......where's a drone strike when you really need one..

    August 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. DustyOnes

    You will be watched.

    August 9, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. John Q. Public - Every Man

    Lawyers who scribe :

    1. Judicial immunity
    2. Six months in jail for contempt without trial
    3. Victims cannot complain to anyone BUT an arrogant and corrupt bar association
    4. Theft of rights as they conduct little more than "for sale" auctions... through hearing delays, and cancellations...

    OUR Court system is run by dishonest men and women today Judges are liars and con-artists. Lawyers – stealing fees from victim clients as they assure them to protect their rights... FRAUD committed to silence victims... collusion... lies... threats... intimidation.... THIS IS WHAT OUR JUDICIAL SYSTEM HAS BECOME. It's a disgrace.

    VOTE lawyers out of legislative and executive branch offices... then outlaw them outside the judiciary... then restore order to our courts by eliminating "judicial immunity" and "zero oversight"... enough already. EVERY AMERICAN deserves a fair judicial process... all we get are auctions. DISGRACEFUL. WH0RES. B@STARDS.

    WAKE UP AMERICA. They are stealing our nation.

    August 9, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. Weasel Hunter

    Orwell actually called it "newspeak". Remember?

    August 9, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  23. CW

    If you think Obama is the solution, you are part of the problem.

    August 9, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  24. HistoryRepeats

    Erich Mielke has returned from the dead. Welcome back Stasi.

    August 9, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  25. DNA

    Look at the story of lavabit if you don't think something nefarious is going on with government snooping.

    August 9, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
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