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. Lorena Lopez

    I love my privacy, and I don't trust no politician because they are all in it idiots, no matter who you vote for. It really gets to me that most of you guys have instangram, Facebook, or other social networks and tells the world your business, you check in everywhere, your friends tag you. So what’s the problem is intended for criminals, terrorist. If you are not doing anything illegal then you have nothing to worried about

    August 9, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. KW

    "I said I'd get Bin Laden." Give me a break, like that wasn't the goal after 9/11? Obama makes it seem like he just stepped in and said, "Hey I think we should go after this terrorist guy." AYE AYE Mr. President. What a loon.

    August 9, 2013 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  3. Joe Sixpack

    @Rudy NYC RE: Metadata

    Shortest explanation about metadata – it is data ABOUT data. For instance in this case, the data of a phone call would be the everything about the call including the content the two parties discussed, and the metadata would "simply" be the names and phone numbers of the parties involved in the call.

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

    "The president will also announce new measures to instill greater transparency in the government snooping programs that were revealed earlier this summer"

    Greater transparency? Uh you need SOME transparency before you can say greater. These programs were 100% Opaque till Snowden forced your hand. I use to support you Mr. President but I cannot anymore. Honestly after these programs came to light, you're no better than Bush now.

    August 9, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Ethan Kiley

    im sorry i will never support this ever..
    i dont want people watching me touch myself.... we have a human right to privacy, just like we have a human right not to be tortured..... we have broken our own laws, and we say there is a good reason.. you can find a reason for anything.. its time you find a reason to start following your own rules. otherwise a country of angry Americans will rise up, and cause a revolution.

    what do you care about more? your government? or your freedoms?

    clearly the answer is obvious now, our forefathers would be ashamed; we should be fighting this, but no one is...

    August 9, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  6. unreal

    The more they try to justify their program the more scary it will become.

    August 9, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  7. Jay Jay

    Obama has lost any and all credibility. I seen the bozo on tv earlier and thought "what kind of lies is he trying to sell us today?" After all he is the one who says that these scandals he brought upon himself are "phony". What a farce

    August 9, 2013 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. Bill Davis

    Obama can not even secure the border to Mexico

    August 9, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  9. Bob

    Obama is trying to create new jobs, unless of course those jobs belong to companies who provide secure email services. He just ran two of those out of business by forcing them to provide backdoors and lying to their customers about it. It's nice to know that some people have enough integrity to close shop rather than provide the government with data they have no right to access.

    August 9, 2013 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  10. roe

    I bet u believe in the bible though dont you. Little fairies in the sky and things.

    August 9, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  11. jh

    i still say i dont trust this guy as far as i can throw him.

    August 9, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  12. jimi.

    I wasn't finished... metadata is useless unless you have access to the actual data being described. In other words, you can't really know what you're looking at without the actual data at hand.

    August 9, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  13. Ethan Kiley

    take the right of privacy from those who've broken the law, not of everyone!

    August 9, 2013 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. Bobby Engels

    I am with Mike. I would take anything Obama says with two pounds of salt. This guy lied his way into the white house and kept lying ever since, practically about everything. He is not cute anymore, because he is a the first black president. Even his own people know this. As far as surveillance, I want to see him fully pardon Showden for being a whistle blower and alerting the world about illegal surveillance.

    August 9, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  15. derekreidy

    Wait a minute.. didn't Obama sit on Jay Leno and say there was NO domestic spying? And now he is calling for tighter controls? The NSA blatantly ignored the 4th amendment.. but now they are going to listen to Obama and follow the rules? Don't worry.. nothing to see here folks.. move along...

    August 9, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  16. BO

    Who is Obama to talk. Obama is no patriot.

    August 9, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. texas77462

    I don't believe a word he said I will hold him responsible if he shuts down the government because he is pouting. We will defund this awfull obamacare

    August 9, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  18. Sahari

    President Obama (and so many Presidents who went before): shame on you for so many reasons (none of them partisan), most of all for advocating a path of Insanity.

    August 9, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Reggie

    In the mean time we are still hearing about crap in the desert. That is getting so old it's not funny. We need someone with balls in the drivers seat.

    August 9, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Thank God for President Obama!!!!

    August 9, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. Rob

    The King has spoken! Now pick up that can, Citizen.

    August 9, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Victor

    Now I know why this guy is president, does he mean Al Qaeda is still alive and kicking?? Wow and I thought the coast was clear after this weekend, this guy is so smart.

    August 9, 2013 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  23. jh

    i agree with hadeze why now after snowden revealed the dirty little secret which wasnt so secret since the bush admin. and werent the dems criticizing and whining about the surveilence that was being done by the bush admin? and now they are all for it? hypocritical at best.

    August 9, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. Stephen

    Regarding Obama's comment on getting UBL, it was almost a statistical fact that Obama would get UBL; not due to his efforts but due to years of intelligence efforts by the former administration and his own – combined.

    August 9, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. Separook bin Feinstein

    No Mr. President. You and congress are not patriots.

    August 9, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
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