August 9th, 2013
02:50 PM ET
8 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. Gitfidl

    We have heard all about transparency and open communication before (in his unending first campaign .. and Change and YES WE CAN .. and PROMISES (like Burt Bacharach)... Promises Promises Your kind of Promises ... (Dione sing it for us ..)

    August 9, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  2. Dave

    How did this guy get elected two times? Absurdity ... fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.

    August 9, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  3. mikes

    "Metadata" is just a word to make you think they're not spying on you. Metadata for a cell phone includes who you called, who called you, how long you were connected, your location when you were connected, the time you were connected, whether the connection was a phone call, SMS text message, or data connection, and some things I'm sure I'm missing. That's "Metadata" with regard to a phone call, because it's everything but the call itself. But, you can also consider it data which tracks the location of every cell phone user.

    The legality of this is based on Smith v. Maryland, which dealt with much more basic metadata, basically only the time and number dialed on a "land line" phone. The decision was based on that information being provided voluntarily by the caller – you don't voluntarily give your location or the number of the person calling you on a cell phone. It was also based on a "reasonable expectation of privacy." I believe that most people have a reasonable expectation that such data will be kept private by their cell company. Especially since most cell companies have explicit privacy policies promising that, which is very different than the days of old AT&T when Smith v Maryland was decided.

    August 9, 2013 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  4. Shangey G.

    A review board is not necessary for the NSA. There is already one - It's called the American People.

    August 9, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  5. ugh

    Not having health insurance is not the same as not having health care.

    August 9, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Slim Shady

    lol , Ed Henry didn't just pitch a softball that the President turned into a grand slam , he scored 3 touch downs and a field goal .

    mr. ailes is probably on the phone

    August 9, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Dave

    I think I have heard this speech before when he was running about how open the government is going to be with the public and how we should know what's going on. Well if this is the case why are they so mad at snowden for helping them out and telling us about it. I think that can fall under a double standard. He is a great idea stop policing the world and try to get along with people and protect America not by building more an more bases over seas and things we don't need and sending billions and billions of dollars all over an put it here at home. But over all just sounds like he is trying to kiss the American peoples ass cause he knows he got busted on this. I lost faith in this guy along time ago

    August 9, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Yeah right

    I'd be happy to explain metadata for you. The government is storing ALL of your internet browsing history in a big building that they built with money they took out of your paycheck. But they won't look at it, they promise. Not unless you run for office, then they'll probably blackmail you. Or if ten years from now, some psychopath takes office and manages to pass an emergency law making it legal to publish or search for all of it. Or if hackers get a hold of it and release all of it. Hope you haven't watched any deviant videos in... your entire life.

    August 9, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  9. Warren Seward

    Freedom of Speech does not include the ability to yell and scream around the world in seconds.

    August 9, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  10. Don

    this guy is a hapless joke of a President....period.
    And I'm sorry. Exactly what is his Foreign Policy?
    And I'm sorry. Exactly what is his Economic Policy?

    August 9, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  11. neken7

    It's good he's willing to talk about it some, but the problem is it's hard to trust anything he says(for the record I doubt Romney would have done anything different). He wouldn't be talking about it at all if it wasn't for the mounting public pressure. It would be one thing if, when these programs were being formed, he came out and said "Look, this is some of the measures we'll be taking, and while me might need to tweak some of these laws, I believe they are necessary because...", that's not even close to what this is. What he's doing now is basically saying "Ok, ok! You found out, fine, I'll talk about it some, but only because you won't shut up about it". That's not honesty, that's being badgered into explaining why the Government creates it's own laws in complete secrecy.

    We'll never be completely safe, and it seems a lot of Americans are willing to trade a bit of potential safety for privacy. And obviously, some prefer safety no matter the cost. It shouldn't be up for the Government to decide, all by its self, in complete secrecy though.

    August 9, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  12. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Anyone who still trusts this guy seriously needs to get their heads examined."

    Anyone who uses the comments section to post comments on an open internet forum and still talks about "trust" ought to understand the irony of their own comments.

    August 9, 2013 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  13. jamesmadison

    Hasn't he already promised more transparency? For some reason, I don't believe him this time. Something something, "a fooled man can't be fooled again," or something.

    August 9, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. JFK

    Mr. President,

    End this countries excessive overreach on civil liberties post 9/11. Eliminate the TSA and replace it with a less intrusive organization that conducts random searches and uses active deterrents; guards armed with automatic rifles with explosive and drug dogs patrolling mass transit terminals, eliminate warrant-less data mining and reestablish citizen rights to seek due process from private service carriers and providers that release private meta-data and communications to third parties and government agencies. Over reactive government intrusions imposed on our Nation's freedoms by granting expanded agency powers and their intrusive programs; surveillance and restricting our freedom of movement denies us of the very liberties and freedoms terrorists could never have achieved though their direct acts of aggression. How much more loss of freedom must a Nation endure to justify an end terrorists have already achieved?

    August 9, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  15. Qvilleman

    I get the distrust of the Govt but do people really think the emails and phone conversations of 300 million people in this country are being monitored? Provided the number of personnel it would take to do that, unemployment would be zero...lol. These programs are set up to cut through red tape quickly if needed to catch homegrown terrorists.

    August 9, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. SkyMager

    I don't believe him...

    August 9, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  17. Shangey G.

    Obama is an amazing speaker - he looks really engaged with his audience. Tthe way he captures his audience from looking left, says some stern authoritarian words, then looks right, says more stern calm words. Ensuring he welcomes everyone into the fold of his message and doesn't alienate anyone.

    Oh, I'm sorry. That's just him looking from teleprompter left, to teleprompter right.
    My bad.

    August 9, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  18. m0tzilla

    New World Order. There it is people. Straight from the horses mouth..

    August 9, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  19. oldsarg

    Obama is lying. His lips are moving.

    August 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  20. hadeze

    why now after Snowden? why not before? why after the indignation of Americans discovering their lives are now on tape in Utah for anyone to look & see? the connexion is politically obvious: weak leadership and a cover up, if not outright lies...

    August 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  21. jimi.

    Metadata is data that describes other data.

    August 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  22. CAWinMD

    Obama nailed it - the unifying principle of the Republican Party today is to prevent 30 million people from getting health care. Republicans will whine about that characterization, but until they put up a viable alternative that gets those 30 million folks health care and saves money beyond what the ACA does, then they have zero room to complain about that assessment.

    August 9, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. WB Willis

    The BBC reported that Barack Obama said the Edward Snowden is not a patriot.

    Is this the same person who said in 2004, "even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us...There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America."

    Now Barack Obama has decided that he can judge who is a patriot and who isn't?

    We may disagree with what Edward Snowden did, but he certainly was acting in what he felt were the best interests of the country. Just like when people opposed the war in Iraq, they were labeled as unpatriotic by some, but they were simply standing up for what they thought was right. 2004 Obama felt that there was nothing more patriotic than that.

    What happened to you Barack? Am I in a bad episode of the twilight zone?

    August 9, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. m0tzilla

    New World Order. There it is people.

    August 9, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  25. Jay G

    Bigger danger to America? Obama and NSA... or whistleblowers like Snowden?

    August 9, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
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