Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 4/17/2013
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
12:16 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here today. I know there are several matters that I'm sure you’ll be interested in discussing today, a couple of issues that are under investigation by the FBI -- and I thought I would start with that and then take your questions.
As you saw from a statement from the FBI, as well as a statement from the United States Secret Service, there was a letter sent to, addressed to the President that at an offsite mail facility was noticed to have contained a suspicious substance in tests that were undertaken. The FBI has the lead in that investigation, of course, and has said in its statement that they will be conducting further tests to determine what the nature of the substance is.
Of course, there was another letter, as you know, sent -- or detected by Capitol Police that was sent to a United States senator. That also has been -- is a subject of the investigation by the FBI. And for more information about these matters I refer you to the FBI.
The President -- I'm sure you’ll ask this -- the President has, of course, been briefed on these letters. He was briefed last night and again this morning.
Secondly, there is obviously a lot of interest in the explosions in Boston, and I wanted to make clear, as you heard from the President yesterday, that our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and to their families who were injured -- those who were injured as well as killed in this heinous and cowardly act. The full weight of the federal government is behind this investigation, which is being led by the FBI. And as the President said, we will find out who did this, we will find out why, and we will bring those responsible to justice.
That said, it is very important that we allow this investigation to run its full course and to ensure that we retain the integrity of that investigation. Therefore, on matters related to the investigation, I would direct you to the FBI. As you know, the FBI is giving the press briefings on the ground in Boston and I believe they will be holding another briefing today.
The President, as you know, has been briefed regularly on the incident in Boston, beginning almost immediately after it took place. This morning, the President again convened a meeting in the Oval Office with his national security team on the ongoing investigation. Participating in that briefing was the Attorney General, Eric Holder; the FBI Director, Robert Mueller; the President’s Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough; his National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon; his Homeland Security Advisor and Counterterrorism Advisor, Lisa Monaco; Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken; White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler; Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco; Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes; and the Vice President’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan.
As you know, tomorrow morning the President will travel to Boston to speak at an interfaith service dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in Monday’s bombing. I have a scheduling update for you on that -- the First Lady will be joining the President on the trip to Boston.
With that, I will take your questions. Julie.
Q Obviously, the public is already pretty nervous given the situation in Boston. Has the FBI told the White House anything about whether the letters that have been received are related to the Boston incident?
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the statement that the FBI put out. It is my understanding that they have not made that connection. But I would refer you to the FBI for that.
Q Do you know if they’re not making that connection, or if they ruled out the connection?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the FBI.
Q So at this point there’s nothing you can say to the public to reassure them?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can tell you that in line -- as you know, for a long time now, there have been long-established procedure and protocols. Any time a suspicious powder is located in a mail facility it is tested. And I would underscore that the mail is screened, the mail sent here is screened, and that these tests are undertaken at remote sites to mitigate the risk both to those recipients and to the general population. The FBI has the lead for determining whether a suspicious powder is a dangerous substance, such as a ricin. And those take place at accredited facilities, and they take a certain amount of time, as the FBI has indicated.
These procedures are in place. The procedures are effective and in operation now. And we are in the midst of that process, which the FBI is undertaking at this time.
Q But, again, there’s nothing you can say about whether there is any connection between the letters and the Boston incident?
MR. CARNEY: I would point you to the FBI, which has the lead in the investigation into each matter, and what they have said about this and their assessments on any connection between these two matters.
Q I imagine you will probably point me to the FBI on this as well, but I’ll ask. Is there any indication on the Boston explosions on whether this looks to be a foreign terrorist incident or a domestic incident?
MR. CARNEY: What the President said yesterday remains true today, which is that there is an active investigation ongoing. We have the full weight of the federal government behind this investigation being led by the FBI. All components of the federal government are assisting -- including the intelligence community and others -- assisting state and local authorities and the FBI in this investigation.
As the President said, we do not know at this time yet whether it was an organization or an individual, foreign or domestic. But we will find out and we will hold accountable and bring to justice whoever is responsible. But this investigation is now not even 48 hours old. And it is important that we maintain the integrity of the investigation.
It is important, as both state and local law enforcement officials and government officials as well as federal officials have made clear, that the American people provide whatever information they might have that could be of assistance in this investigation. There is an 800-number -- 1-800-CALL-FBI -- which has been put out to provide a method for individuals who might have information to contact law enforcement on this matter. And that is absolutely the responsible thing to do.
But the details of the progress of the investigation, assessments about -- preliminary assessments about who may be responsible I will not make, and I think that as a matter of upholding the integrity of the investigation, others will not as well.
Q Jay, there’s still police tape across or around Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House. Is that a temporary measure or is -- have there been any other threats to the White House that -- other than these letters?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not aware of any, Jeff. I think the Secret Service said yesterday that out of -- and through normal procedures and through an abundance of caution that certain actions are taken. But I would refer you to them for any details about the perimeter and any actions the Secret Service might be taking today.
Q Is the President discouraged at all by the fact that there aren’t more leads in the Boston bombings?
MR. CARNEY: I wouldn’t say one way or the other, because I think it’s important to allow the investigators to do their work. He is being briefed on this regularly. He had a substantial meeting earlier today. Lisa Monaco, his Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor, is updating him continuously throughout the day and the evening and the night on these matters. But I wouldn’t characterize his view of the investigation because that would then characterize the investigation.
Q What will his message be in Boston tomorrow?
MR. CARNEY: It will be one of resolve. It will be one of the commonality that we all feel as Americans with the people of Boston and those who were visiting Boston for the marathon, and who both endured this horrific event and then demonstrated their bravery in its immediate aftermath. I mean, I would, obviously, ask you to wait until you hear his remarks, but as you heard him say yesterday from this podium, the way that the people of Boston and the city of Boston responded reminds us and reminds the world of just who we are as a people.
Q And last question. How did he react to the briefings about the letters that were addressed to him?
MR. CARNEY: The President was briefed on these matters. I don’t have a way to characterize his reaction. Obviously, he understands and we all understand that there are procedures in place, as the FBI has said. There’s a process in place that ensures that materials that are suspicious or substances that are found to be suspicious at remote locations are then sent for secondary and more intense testing, and that process is underway now.
Q Jay, following on Julie’s question, at the end of the FBI’s statement, they say there is no indication of a connection to the attack in Boston. They won’t explicitly rule out a connection, nor will you. Why is that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would point to the FBI, which you’ve just cited, where they say there is no indication. That’s a pretty clear statement.
Q But that leaves open the possibility of a connection. So it would be reassuring if you could stand there and say there is no connection. Why aren’t you? What’s the significance?
MR. CARNEY: I think that’s for the investigating authorities to say. They have made a fairly clear statement, which I was suggesting to Julie that was available in the statement they put out. I’m not going to assess it further from here. I would remind you that these investigations, both of the bombings in Boston and the letters in question here, are just underway. And I wouldn’t presume to characterize the nature of the investigations. I would point to the statement by the FBI, as you said, that they’ve made that says they have no indication of a connection between the two.
Q There are a lot of letters now. Well, first, may I clarify? The statement refers to two different facilities. We also know of a letter that was sent to Capitol Hill. Can you clarify -- is that three facilities and letters total, or just two?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the FBI. My understanding -- what I’m aware of is a letter sent to a member of the Senate and a letter sent to the President. But I -- there have been reports I think the FBI has said of other potential letters. I don't know if that's the case. I would refer you to the statement by the FBI.
Q And given the number of letters and possible packages, suspicious packages up there, is this concerning to the administration that there is something else going on here, that there’s somebody trying -- a follow-on, a lone wolf, somebody trying to capitalize on the concern after Boston?
MR. CARNEY: I think those are questions that the investigators are looking to answer. I would point you to what the FBI has said already, what the Secret Service has said and make clear, that we have had procedures in place for quite some time now when it comes to the processing of mail sent to the White House complex that ensure that that mail is processed at an offsite facility to mitigate any risk to potential recipients here and to the general public, and that those procedures have been in place for some time and have been effective.
I would ask you to check with the FBI to see what assessments they’ll make along the lines that you're asking, but this is, again, very early.
Q Can I just ask one more, which is, is this something that happens every so often and we just don't hear about it because there’s not as much interest in this kind of thing? Or is this an unusual occurrence?
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, the FBI and the Secret Service are best to ask these questions of because they handle the processing of, or the investigation of, in one case, and Capitol Police and the Secret Service handle the assessments of it. It is certainly the case, I think as the FBI has pointed out, that when preliminary tests are done, secondary and I suppose tertiary tests are made because of the need for accuracy and to be sure about what the substances might be. But for the history of this I would refer you to the FBI, the Secret Service and the Capitol Police.
Q Yesterday, the letter -- or the envelope received here, did it have the same return address as --
MR. CARNEY: It was not received here, Jon.
Q I'm sorry, received at the facility -- but the envelope sent to the President, did it have the same return address as the one --
MR. CARNEY: Again, that’s a subject of the investigation. I have no information on the nature of the mailing label or the return address. That would be for the FBI to address.
Q And do you know if there was a letter in this envelope, or was it just a --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I have no -- the reason why I opened with a statement about it is to make clear that this is a matter under investigation by the FBI and that they have the lead in both investigating and providing information on that investigation to the public.
Q Let me ask you something you definitely know about -- the gun control votes on Capitol Hill today. It certainly looks like it’s going down in defeat. What does this say? What happens next? Is the President going to continue his fight on this?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes very strongly that the Senate should pass the background checks bill. You have heard him speak passionately about this issue. The families of Newtown victims have been in Washington speaking to lawmakers about the need to pass common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence.
This was always going to be difficult. We said that from the beginning. The reason why these common-sense provisions aren't law already is because they are difficult, and there is no question that the path to 60 in this case is difficult, but it is not unachievable.
And we hope that members of the Senate, after speaking with Newtown families who are on Capitol Hill right now meeting with lawmakers, consider who they’re representing. Ninety percent of the American people support expanded background checks. Majorities in every state where there is data available overwhelmingly support background checks -- every state. Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, independents support background checks.
If you were opposed to this legislation, you should obviously explain why, and you should explain why you are for something that 90 -- you are against something that 90 percent of the people are for, that vast majorities of the people in your state support.
There has been a lot of bogus information about what is in this amendment that was crafted by two “highly-rated” by the NRA senators -- a senator from West Virginia, one of the states with the strongest gun cultures in the country; a senator from Pennsylvania, a conservative Republican -- claims about the establishment of a gun registry, which are bogus. In fact, the legislation itself explicitly prohibits the establishment of a gun registry. So members of the Senate ought to ask themselves, who are they representing?
Q You sound frustrated. Is the President frustrated?
MR. CARNEY: The President wants this done. But this is not about the President. It’s about those families; it’s about the families of Aurora; it’s about the families in Oak Creek; it’s about the families in Virginia Tech. And it is common-sense, reasonable legislation to pass to close loopholes that prevent people who should not, by law, have access to a gun from obtaining a gun. It’s pretty simple. It’s expanding a background check system that exists already.
Q But what do you do now? This was the single-best chance you had to pass legislation. What are you going to do now?
MR. CARNEY: I don't -- Jon, what I won’t do, as a rule, is give post-game analysis before the game is over. This vote has not happened.
Q You still think this can pass today?
MR. CARNEY: I still think that each senator has to decide for himself or herself how they're going to vote ultimately. What they tell the press or what they tweet about is not the same as what they vote. And there is an opportunity for 60 senators to do the right thing.
Q Is the President still making calls on it?
MR. CARNEY: Everybody in the White House is working on this issue from the President on down.
Q Is the White House satisfied with the timing of this vote? It is my impression that there were those in this building who thought you might have more time, maybe as much as a week before this vote would be held. Are you satisfied with the way that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has brought this to the floor today where it appears, as Jonathan said, it’s heading for defeat?
MR. CARNEY: The way that the Senate runs is obviously handled by the Senate Majority Leader and others in leadership. The fact that we would be voting on -- that the Senate would be voting on a bipartisan, common-sense compromise amendment that would establish an expanded background check system has been known for some time.
Now, it is certainly the case that every senator should have read this amendment. And if they haven’t, they should be ashamed. They should read it before they vote, especially if they were going to vote no. And again, I’m not going to give post-game analysis before the game has occurred. What I will say is that we believe --
Q I’m not asking -- I’m asking about what’s happening now.
MR. CARNEY: -- we believe that 60 senators -- that there is a path, a very difficult path but a path to get to 60. There ought to be a path to get 100.
Q Would that path be more achievable if you had more time?
MR. CARNEY: I’m not -- that's a hypothetical. Look, we have been talking about background checks for some time. The compromise negotiated admirably by Senators Machin and Toomey has been under discussion for some time and it has been public now for a number of days. This is not -- it’s not a complicated issue. It’s a 90-10 issue.
Q I understand that.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, so I’m saying --
Q I’m just asking you straight out there’s no material difference whether you vote -- the Senate votes next week or today? The President is making calls. He made calls yesterday. I assume he made them this morning.
MR. CARNEY: And the Senate will vote, and whenever it votes, it ought to pass this amendment. It’s pretty simple. What’s complicated about the fact that 90 percent of the American people want this done? And yet a substantial percentage of the Senate at least seems to disagree with the vast majority of the American people, to disagree with the vast majority of the people of their states?
Q And the President.
MR. CARNEY: It’s not about the President. They disagree with the families of Newtown. They disagree with those who still grieve over their losses in Aurora. It’s about them.
Q Let me ask you quickly about two things with Boston. Obviously, with the security the President talked about in other cities -- precautions taken just necessarily, the visibility here, the edginess around Capitol Hill -- does the President feel any burden tomorrow, in addition to talking about what happened, the tragedy in Boston, to give the country some sense of how to cope with the edginess that I think all of us feel is creeping into the consciousness of the country after what happened in Boston?
MR. CARNEY: I think you heard the President say that we will not be terrorized. And I think you saw and have seen in the reaction of the people of Boston and in the reaction of Americans across the country the proof of that statement. And that’s who we are. And you heard him say this yesterday, the President, and I’m sure he will echo that sentiment tomorrow.
Q Following on that, Jay, a lot of people are starting to talk about how, whether these incidents are connected or not, it’s feeling a little bit like 2001 with the terror attack and then, in fact, these suspicious letters and people being concerned. Do you believe, does the President believe the nation is under attack again?
MR. CARNEY: You heard the President address the bombings in Boston twice now. You’ll hear him again tomorrow in Boston. He has been briefed on the letters and updated on the fact that the FBI is investigating and that further tests are being done.
The President made a commitment yesterday and the day before that we will find who is responsible for the bombings in Boston and bring them to justice. We will -- obviously the FBI will make assessments about these letters, and we’ll proceed from there once we know. But I think first things first, Ed. Before we speculate, before we make connections that we do not --
Q You said we don’t know if it’s connected --
MR. CARNEY: Well, the question you asked was very broad in nature, and I’m simply saying that before we speculate or make connections that we don’t know exist, that the FBI has made a clear statement about, we need to get the facts. The President bases his judgments and the things he says to the American people on the facts.
Q Is the President concerned at all about the pace of the investigation in Boston? When he’s having these meetings with his team -- the FBI Director and others -- is he expressing any concern? I know you said earlier it’s only been 48 hours and that is an important point to make, but there’s obviously a lot of people wondering why there’s not a suspect yet. Is the President expressing frustration in private about the pace of it?
MR. CARNEY: The President has faith in the FBI, which has the lead, and faith in the entire national security and homeland security team. It has not even been 48 hours. And it is important to allow for this investigation to proceed and to maintain the integrity of the investigation. But the President is very confident in all of the agencies at the federal level that are involved, putting the full weight of the federal government behind this investigation, and he is confident that we will find who is responsible.
Q Did he get any sense in the latest briefing this morning that they’re on the verge of any sort of breakthrough in Boston?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I wouldn’t characterize the investigation or progress being made in the investigation. It’s important to maintain the integrity of the investigation and to allow the FBI and all the others involved to do the essential work that they’re doing now.
Q Okay, last thing. A delicate issue, but as Major was talking about, the gun issue that’s up there, immigration reform. Anytime there’s a major incident, whether it’s dealing with North Korea or there’s a terror attack on American soil, it preoccupies some of the President’s time. How does he balance this now as he’s pushing all these important issues that he’s made a top priority on the Hill that needs his attention -- needs him calling senators, but also dealing with the FBI Director, figuring out the investigation? Is the White House at all -- first of all, how do you balance that? And are you concerned at all that some of this now overshadows his push on the domestic front?
MR. CARNEY: Look, these are all top priorities. The top and highest priority for this President is the safety and security of the American people. And the bombings in Boston, the explosions in Boston that killed and maimed people have his absolute focus. And he has directed the entire federal government, with the FBI at the lead, to make this investigation its priority.
There are also many other issues that are essential to making progress in this country -- on reducing gun violence, on fixing our terribly broken immigration system, on helping our economy grow and create jobs -- and that is the absolute nature of the world we live in and the business that we need to conduct. And the President is focused on all of this.
Q Jay, can you give us a better sense -- we know the President will be speaking at that interfaith service tomorrow in Boston that he’s traveling to now we’ve learned with his wife, the First Lady. Are there any other plans in the course of tomorrow to visit privately with any of the victims or the victims’ family members? Has he had conversations to this point with any of those individuals? What more color can you give us besides just his remarks?
MR. CARNEY: I have no other updates on the President’s travel tomorrow. If there are changes or additions, we’ll certainly make you aware of them. The President, as you know, has been in contact with officials in Massachusetts and Boston. I have no other conversations related to the incidents in Boston, the bombings in Boston to read out to you at this time. But the President will obviously be seeing a number of people on the ground in Boston, including local and state officials.
Q Acknowledging that none of it really matters until the votes take place at the Capitol today on the gun bill, background checks bill, I want to get the sense of what the President’s message is specifically to those Democrats, including Heidi Heitkamp, who just a matter of moments ago said she will vote no on that. What does he say to the Democrats, six of whom at this point seem to be saying they will not vote in support of this? And with those six, he could have the 60 that are necessary. What does he say to the members of his party who haven’t -- or say they will not support this?
MR. CARNEY: The President believes that every senator ought to support common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence, 100 of them. He believes that something like legislation that expands and improves our background check system as the amendment that Senators Toomey and Manchin have put forward should garner the support in the Senate that it has in the country.
But make no mistake that on this matter and on this issue, as is the case on others related to reducing gun violence, the overwhelming number of Democrats support it, and the overwhelming number of Republicans oppose it. And that is a shame.
And again, when it comes to background checks, this is not a question of different states see this differently. In state after state after state, the support is overwhelming. Blue states, red states, purple states, more rural states, more urban states. The American people have been clear that this is common sense, that it does not in any way infringe upon Second Amendment rights that this President supports and that the American people support. It ought to pass.
Q I’m going to ask about immigration in a moment, but one more question I’d be remiss if I didn't ask you regarding guns, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky said -- only a matter of hours ago today, he accused the President of using the Newtown families as, and it was his word, “props.” What’s the White House’s response to that accusation?
MR. CARNEY: I don't know if Senator Paul met with the Newtown families, but the Newtown families aren’t here for the President. They're here because their children were murdered. They're here asking for the Senate to do something that's common sense. That's my response.
Q Jay, can you talk a little bit about tonight’s dinner with Democratic senators, why the President wanted to meet with members of his own party, and also whether the President is prepared to talk about chained CPI, if it’s going to come up and if the President might be able to defend his position on that, or talk about his position?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I’m sure a variety of topics will come up. The President looks forward to meeting with a group of Senate Democrats. He, as you know, has been engaged in, through a variety of modes, reaching out to lawmakers of both parties, and this is part of that process. There’s a lot of business that he believes we need to get done here in Washington on behalf of the American people. And Senate Democrats are key to that progress that he wants to see made.
The White House worked with Senator Murray to put together this list for tonight. As you know, the President has previously had two dinners with Republican senators. And you can be confident that his outreach will continue and these meetings, both large and small, will continue as he seeks to work with the Senate, work with the Congress, to get common-sense business done that the American people want their elected representatives to get done.
Q This is a small thing, but is there any reason some of these dinners are at the White House and some are at the Jefferson Hotel?
MR. CARNEY: Well, there have only been two so far, and this is the third. I guess we’re just mixing it up. (Laughter.)
Q Jay, back on the gun debate, who or what is the source of the bogus information that you mentioned a couple of minutes ago?
MR. CARNEY: There have been accusations made or suggestions put out there that voting for the Manchin-Toomey amendment is a vote for a gun registry, which is on its face absurd and false and wrong. The legislation itself prohibits that. This is not a gun registry; it is the opposite of that. It is expanding a background check system that’s been in place for more than a decade and, where it doesn’t have loopholes, has been effective, has prevented criminals and those who are mentally unstable from obtaining weapons, people who should not obtain weapons.
I mean, this is -- what should be clear to those senators who are considering this, because it’s clear to the American people, is that this is just -- this is common sense. If you are a responsible gun shop owner and you abide by the system that ensures that background checks are conducted, you want everyone else to have to abide by the same rules. If you want to sell a firearm and you’re a responsible citizen, you want to know whether the person you’re selling that to is a criminal or is mentally unstable and should not have a weapon.
That’s what the system that’s already in place was designed to do and this amendment merely assures that the significant loopholes in that system are substantially closed.
Q Again, can you specify who you see as the main source of the bogus information?
MR. CARNEY: I can’t. I’ve seen it in so many places that it’s hard to keep track. Clearly, it’s out there and it’s false. And I would urge senators who imagine that it’s in there to read the legislation.
Q Can we expect to hear from the President after today’s votes?
MR. CARNEY: He feels very strongly about this obviously, but I don’t have any scheduling announcements.
Q Thank you, Jay. I know the President said twice not to jump to conclusions when it comes to the people responsible for the attack. But there is a fear of a backlash among the Arab and Muslim American community here. Is there anything you can say on the podium to alleviate the fear?
MR. CARNEY: I would simply point you to and point everyone to the statement the President made, which is we should not jump to any conclusions. We need to allow the investigation to run its course and to follow leads where those leads take them, and then we will know. And before then, it’s not helpful to jump to any conclusions, in the President’s view.
Q I wanted to ask about the immigration bill. President Obama spoke positively about the compromise offer yesterday, which does not include citizenship for same-sex couples of different nationalities. Is that something the President will push for in a final bill, or is this just the cost of compromise?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President did, as you know, meet yesterday with Senator Schumer and McCain, who briefed him on the bipartisan immigration reform bill that they have drafted and has now been submitted.
As the President said, this bill is clearly a compromise and no one will get everything they want from it, including the President. That’s the nature of compromise. But the bill is largely consistent with the principles he has laid out repeatedly. It would strengthen security at our borders and hold employers more accountable, and it would provide a pathway to earn citizenship for the 11 million individuals who are already in this country illegally. And that is significant progress, as the President noted in his statement.
This process will continue. We will work with lawmakers of both parties as the bill is considered. But it is very important to note that this is a bipartisan bill that represents compromise and reflects and is consistent with the principles that the President has long supported.
Q Does that mean he’s willing to let that provision go?
MR. CARNEY: Again, this -- I’m not going to negotiate out the process that will take some time in the Senate as this bill moves forward, or assess individual items within it. It is certainly the case, as the President said in his statement, that not everything in the bill reflects how he would write it, but it broadly is consistent with his principles. And we will see --
Q He will sign it?
MR. CARNEY: Have you ever seen a bill of this size go from inception to a President’s desk unaltered? So we’ll see where this goes. So I don’t want to characterize any provision within it. I want to broadly make the point that the President made yesterday that it is consistent with his principles and that this is significant and important progress. And the members of the Gang of Eight should be commended for the progress they’ve made.
But we’re not there yet. And this is a big piece of business that requires broad bipartisan support, and much work remains to be done.
Mark, and then April.
Q Just a small question. The President had been scheduled to go to Kansas on Friday. The White House said yesterday the trip would be put off. Is that because the President wants to stay close to his advisors on the investigation, or just a purely logistical issue?
MR. CARNEY: Well, the President obviously is traveling to Boston tomorrow, and that was a new trip that was placed on the schedule. And the decision was made not to travel on Friday if we’re traveling on Thursday. And obviously with Boston, with what’s happening on a variety of fronts, legislatively and otherwise, the President will remain here on Friday. But all the issues that he would have talked about in Kansas and the issues that are before us today remain front and center. And you will clearly hear from the President on all of them.
Q Has he made any other amendments in his schedule in terms of the things he’s doing here as a result of what happened in Boston and other related --
MR. CARNEY: Well, he’s had, obviously, a substantial number of briefings and meetings related to Boston that were added to schedule and he’ll continue to have those, but nothing else beyond that.
Q And he hasn’t had to cancel things because of all the additional briefings?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of, no.
April, then Zach.
Q Jay, two questions on the letter. Has mail to the White House been temporarily halted for now because of this suspicious letter?
MR. CARNEY: Not that I’m aware of, but I’d refer you to the Secret Service. The procedures that have been in place for some time now ensure that the mail sent to the White House complex is processed offsite to mitigate risk to the general public and to individuals who might be recipients of -- or designated recipients of that mail. So for any adjustments in the procedure, if there are any, I would refer you to the Secret Service.
Q So proper procedures were in place at the time when the letter was received?
MR. CARNEY: Well, it’s certainly the case, as the Secret Service and Capitol Police and the FBI have indicated, that the discovery of suspicious substances was made at offsite facilities.
Q All right. And on guns, what group or group of persons or person was really the problem when it comes to pushing this gun legislation through?
MR. CARNEY: Well, first of all, this isn’t over. I’m not going to give a postmortem. I’m not going to assess the game, as I said to Jon, before the game is over.
Q Well, what is -- I’m going to recalibrate the question.
MR. CARNEY: The senators ought to examine the bill, examine their consciousness, and then vote. And we hope that this amendment gets 60 votes.
There has long been, as you know, a variety of obstacles to passing common-sense legislation to reduce gun violence. It’s a fact that nobody would have predicted four or five months ago that we would have gotten this far on a measure to expand the background check system. But getting this far is not far enough.
This ought to be passed.
It has the support of 90 percent of the American people. There is a lot of cynicism around here and some of it is merited. There aren’t too many issues in America of significance that have 90 percent support from the American people. There aren’t too many issues that rise to the prominence that this has risen to that enjoy that kind of broad-based support from Republicans, Democrats, independents, gun owners, non-gun owners, urban dwellers, people who live in rural areas.
And so you have to wonder why this is so hard. The senators who are voting no, if they vote no, represent the very people who have said overwhelmingly that they want this done. And that’s a shame. But we believe -- we know there’s a vast majority of the American people who support this, and we believe there should be 60 votes in the Senate to support it.
Q So following up on that, you’ve been making this case for quite a long time, a couple of months now, and it’s just not getting enough support among senators to get to 60 votes. Do you have a sense of -- do you have a theory of why that is? And is there anything you can do going forward? Can you shame the senators by name who are not voting for it? You seem pretty outraged by it.
MR. CARNEY: Well, first let’s wait for the vote and let’s see how the individual senators decide this issue. And hopefully there will be reason to be pleased by the outcome. If that’s not the case, we’ll assess that. But I’m not going to get ahead of the vote.
Q Can I follow on that, Jay?
MR. CARNEY: Yes, Christi.
Q Is it your expectation that the President will keep talking about gun violence, regardless of what happens tonight?
MR. CARNEY: This is an issue that matters a lot to him. I went with him to Newtown. I went with him to Hartford. Those of you who heard him speak in the immediate aftermath of Newtown know his passion on this issue as a father as well as a President. And I’m not going to predict the future, because the future that you’re asking about is predicated upon failure of this legislation and we’re not ready to concede that.
Q I send my deepest condolence to the victims and families in Boston. President Obama said that what happened in Boston was an act of terrorism. I would like to ask, do you consider the U.S. bombing on civilians in Afghanistan earlier this month that killed -- that left 11 children and a woman killed a form of terrorism? Why or why not?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would have to know more about the incident, and obviously the Department of Defense would have answers to your questions on this matter. We have more than 60,000 U.S. troops involved in a war in Afghanistan, a war that began when the United States was attacked in an attack that was organized on the soil of Afghanistan by al Qaeda, by Osama bin Laden and others, and where 3,000 people were killed in that attack.
And it has been the President’s objective once he took office to make clear what our goals are in Afghanistan, and that is to disrupt, dismantle, and ultimately defeat al Qaeda, and with that as our objective, to provide enough assistance to Afghan National Security Forces and the Afghan government to allow them to take over security for themselves. And that process is underway. The United States has withdrawn a substantial number of troops and we are in the process of drawing down further as we hand over security lead to Afghan forces.
And it is certainly the case -- but I refer you to the Defense Department for details -- that we take great care in the prosecution of this war and we are very mindful of what our objectives are.
Q Jay, bombings in India?
MR. CARNEY: Okay, Goyal.
Q Two questions, sir, one on bombings. As far as these pressure-cooker bombings are common by the al Qaeda Lashkar-e-Taiba, and this happened yesterday after just 24 hours before in Boston, in Bangalore in India, and scores were injured. And there was 13 pressure-cooker bombings in India, Bombay, Delhi, Madras and also Jaipur among other cities, major cities. And those were all pressure-cooker bombings.
MR. CARNEY: What’s your question?
Q Do you see any connection here involving these bombings? These people are against the democracies and peace-loving people.
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the State Department for information about our response or view on the incidents that you refer to. The President is focused on the investigation here into the bombings in Boston.
Q And second, sir, on immigration. Last week, there was a big demonstration by the legals, illegals and citizens and among others on Capitol Hill. And also on Capitol Hill, dozens of Indian AAPI members, Indian American Physician Association members, gathered on Capitol Hill, and they were asking the President, which they supported him, that it takes about nine years for a physician or doctor to get green card in the U.S. And what they were saying that this comprehensive immigration bill should include those who are waiting legally to be entering the U.S. or their spouses overseas for about nine, 10 years. And finally, it took 21 years for --
MR. CARNEY: Goyal, I need a question because you have a lot of people here waiting for you to finish. What’s the question.
Q It took 21 years for one person to get green card, and he left his family behind in India, and now he got just last week.
MR. CARNEY: Well, the need for comprehensive immigration reform is clear. That reform must improve our legal immigration system. It must provide a clear pathway to citizenship for those 11 million who are here illegally. It must provide for enhanced border security to build on the efforts we have made thus far. It must hold employers accountable in the ways that I discussed earlier. That's why it’s called comprehensive.
Thanks, very much, guys.
1:04 P.M. EDT
November 22, 2014
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The President Awards the National Medals of Science and National Medals of Technology and Innovation
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