August 9th, 2013
02:50 PM ET
9 months 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. Jay Smoothe

    First off, the President opened his conference with a statement saying "I look forward to working with congress to...." Everybody with a brain can hear that remark and understand the rest of this presser is going to be a bunch of hog wash. The President will never and has never enjoyed working with congress. Yes I get that this is standard speak and its politically correct. But the point is, he is the president. That statement that he enjoys congress company is a lie. Im sick of lies. Tell the truth. People aren't stupid. Americans are well aware of what's going on. It's about time our government treats us as equals instead of push overs.

    August 9, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  2. Wayne

    A new Church Committee must be formed to scrutinize all actions taken by the Federal Government since the last Committee. The Watergate scandal looks like a joke compared to what the Federal government is doing today.

    August 9, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. deathstalker

    How come the Media never asks about the repercussions of governments spying on their own people and what Historically that leads to?? All they talk about is Snowden and blah blah blah! What ever happens to America in the future is the Corporate Medias fault for not doing their job!!! Do your job! Educate the People and keep these tyrants in check!

    August 9, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. George

    @Rudy

    The simplest analogy to understand meta data is thinking about your food supply – how it gets to you. Farmers make food and end consumers consume it and in the middle lots of exchanges occur. If you were to pick out a box randomly from this supply chain containing millions of boxes, consider what can you get from looking at the box alone. The box has a certain set of information that helps it to get from the farmer to the consumer. Simple things like shipping address, region it came from, supplier id and who its going to etc. Think about how FDA can narrow down contaminated food to a supplier. Essentially this information in the IT world is called meta data. You send messages through IM, txts, calls, video etc. it all contains headers with all kinds of information that essentially contains the source, destination, duration, etc and is called meta data. You can do a lot of things with this meta data and form with high degree of confidence a reliable method in narrowing and identifying.

    Hope this helps and hopefully other techies can help out with this explanation

    August 9, 2013 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  5. jed

    Question: How can you tell when a politician is lying?
    Answer: There lips are moving.

    August 9, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  6. Ronasld T

    So far it sounds a lot like G-Dub and Chaney's "trust us, we know whats good for ya"

    August 9, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. Carrie

    Mr. President you need a vacation you have been working to hard, that is right you are going on vacation again after this.

    August 9, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  8. TheBigT

    They will illegally do what they want and we can't stop them. That's all there is too it. Smoke and mirrors.

    August 9, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  9. norker

    "Our priority should continue to be saving American lives"

    Actually, his priority is SUPPOSED to be protecting American freedom and liberty, but neither party remembers that.

    August 9, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  10. A. Rosenberg

    The Patriot Act has got to go. Regardless of the BS the President wants to "spin" to us: our individual rights are in jeopardy. He's just hoping he can just make this all go away.

    August 9, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  11. Joe

    I like how he didn't say that if the average American understood what is right– he said if they understood the law. There are lots of secret laws now. Just because it's law doesn't mean it is right... and it doesn't mean we will stand for it.

    August 9, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. RIchard Long

    Trust at your own risk...

    August 9, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  13. Jay Smoothe

    There is nothing democratic about spying on American citizens without their knowledge, mr. President.

    August 9, 2013 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  14. Jim

    And he added, "The check's in the mail. It'll only hurt for a little while. And I won't . . . ".

    August 9, 2013 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  15. tonymishler

    Rudy, meta data is data describing other data, the other data in this case being the phone conversations themselves. If they are tracking the meta data, the are keeping tabs on who is speaking to who, where from and for how long.

    August 9, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  16. Bill

    "New thinking for a new era" OK, now I really AM scared.

    August 9, 2013 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  17. thewalter99

    How out of touch can you be, it's not about restoring trust in the surveillance programs, it's about trusting the government

    August 9, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  18. ImVoting4Hillary

    All you haters out here whining about President Obama will be the same ones here whining about him not doing enough. Obama could say, "Jesus Christ is Lord" and all the haters would flock to the Church of Satan.

    August 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  19. Yeah right

    Hey POTUS: We don't want you to restore our faith in surveillance. We don't want to be under surveillance at all. We're more scared of our own government than we are of terrorists. Stop murdering children with drones and maybe there won't be terrorists in the first place. Here's my question: Are you completely evil or completely stupid? It's one or the other, man.

    August 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  20. Dmitry

    Thank you Mr.President, we definitely want more transparency in this mess of things.

    August 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  21. Ash

    @Rudy NYC anything you post online from Videos, Images, include information about when an object was created, who created it, to Web site meta Tags and so on...in short everything you post online, or share online like my comment, my IP, timestamp etc is now recorded and kept as Meta-data in a Database

    August 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  22. Jack 63

    Let's see if the liar's pants catch on fire this time. Personally I think I will be disappointed yet again.

    August 9, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  23. Stupid people!

    Make more Americans comfortable so the can steal your rights.

    August 9, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  24. Lee

    "like a bad kid in the back" this is the best joke~~but I think probably, this is the only right decision that Putin has ever made~~

    August 9, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. IMI

    Will I get a friend request from NSA instead of them spying on me without my knowledge?

    August 9, 2013 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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