Press Briefing by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6/3/2010
* The amount of the bill sent to BP today is $69 million, which accounts for 75% of the obligations to date. Actual expenditures will likely vary
from these projections but future invoices will recoup the full costs based on actual expenses incurred. BP was given until July 1 to pay the full $69 million. Costs included in the $69 million are:
- $29 million - For Federal agencies to support operation of ships, aircraft and boats, to support environmental assessment/monitoring, to support deployed personnel, and other expenses.
- $4 million - For Department of Defense support of salvage and removal efforts, to support operation of ships and aircraft.
- $29 million - For National Guard Bureau to support activation and deployment of National Guard from LA, MS, AL and FL, to support deployed personnel, and other expenses.
- $7 million - For states to support removal operations, to support environmental assessment/monitoring, and other expenses.
**Let me clarify, what I mean is President Calderon’s courageous efforts to go after the cartels have put them on the defensive and they are reacting violently. As was highlighted during the State Visit, we are committed to working with Mexico to go after the cartels that pose a threat to communities on both sides of the border.
2:27 P.M. EDT
MR. GIBBS: Just one quick scheduling update for you all. Tomorrow before departing for the Gulf, the President will stop with the Vice President at a business in Hyattsville, Maryland, to comment on the May employment numbers that will be, as you know, released tomorrow.
They will visit the K Neal International commercial truck dealership and parts -- truck parts supplier. The President and Vice President will do a tour with workers, and the President will make brief remarks to pooled press.
Q Thank you, Robert. I have a few questions about the Romanoff matter, following up on your e-mail this morning. Did the President sign off on the White House’s approaching Romanoff about the prospect of jobs to get into --
MR. GIBBS: The President wasn’t aware of that.
Q He wasn’t aware?
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q What is his reaction to this?
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t talked to him about it today.
Q You don’t know of any --
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t talked to him about it today.
Q We now have two confirmed cases of the White House actively seeking to encourage Democratic candidates to bow out of primary challenges. How can you contend that this isn’t politics as usual?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Ben, I think the leaders of parties have long had an interest in ensuring that supporters didn’t run against each other in contested primaries. That’s what was done in this case.
Q Do you think that the White House has been transparent about this? It seems like the details of this, if in fact it’s legitimate, have rolled out later only upon --
MR. GIBBS: If in fact what is legitimate?
Q That the -- has the White House been transparent about these offers; if in fact nothing was done wrong, why has it taken so long for all this to come out?
MR. GIBBS: I think you all have received quite a bit of information over the past week on this, and I do believe we’ve been transparent, yes.
Q You do?
MR. GIBBS: I do.
Q So, overall, does the President stand by these?
MR. GIBBS: Stand by?
Q Stand by these offers to --
MR. GIBBS: Again, the President has, as the leader of the party, has an interest in ensuring that supporters don’t run against each other in contested primaries, yes.
Q But that makes it sounds like he did know about them, then.
MR. GIBBS: No, no, he’s not aware of the individual circumstances. I don’t think it’s -- we went through a pretty contested primary. They’re not altogether fun things. Again, does the leader of the party have an interest in ensuring that primaries that tend to be costly aren’t had so that you’re ready for a general election? Of course.
Q Can you talk about what the President hopes to accomplish on tomorrow’s trip? And can you talk a little bit about what he’s going to be doing down there? And what does he hope to accomplish that he didn’t do on the last two trips?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think -- and we’ll have some scheduling details for you all shortly. I think the President will likely see governors again. I think the President will speak with individuals and business leaders likely that have been affected directly by the economic consequences of the spill, and continue to get from Admiral Allen a firsthand update on our progress, both in dealing with the well and in dealing with the spread of pollution that has leaked from the well.
I think the President believed that last week’s trip was tremendously productive. We had about a two-hour meeting with parish presidents from Louisiana affected by the spill, senators and a congressman from Louisiana, governors from many of the Gulf states, and I think -- along with the Coast Guard -- and I think the President believed it was a productive atmosphere in ensuring that everybody’s causes and concerns were heard and ultimately met.
Q Can you talk about the criticism that the President isn’t making that emotional connection with people over the spill?
MR. GIBBS: You know, I -- this one is -- I said this last night -- if jumping up and down and screaming were to fix a hole in the ocean, we’d have done that five or six weeks ago. We’d have done that the first night. I think we’re going to be judged and the President will be judged on our response and our recovery efforts to what we all know now is the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. But pounding on a podium isn’t going to fix a hole in the ocean.
I think what the American people and the citizens of the Gulf are expecting are results. And I think that’s what the President will be measured by. I’ll leave emotional psychiatry to others.
Hold on, I’ll get back to you.
Q Can I just ask a quick question about the -- you mentioned the May jobs report and I was wondering where things stand with the effort to get that jobs bill through. Some Democrats are worried about the budgetary implications of that. And tying it into the Gulf, are you concerned that his political capital is a little weakened from this --
MR. GIBBS: How so?
Q Just the fact that he’s dealing with a lot of criticism over this right now and that’s taking a lot of time, a lot of White House time, maybe --
MR. GIBBS: No, again, I --
Q -- possibly a distraction?
MR. GIBBS: No. Look, again, I said this earlier this week. I think you -- no White House at any time has the luxury of picking the events that it deals with, both on a domestic and an international -- and on the international scene. That’s part of the job.
But the American people don’t elect somebody I think that they don’t believe can walk and chew gum at the same time. Sometimes it feels like we walk and chew gum and juggle on a unicycle all at the same time. I get that. But I think if you look at the progress that we’ve made over the -- let’s go back the past six weeks, we’ve seen sanctions introduced in the U.N. Security Council that we believe will be voted on next week and approved by the U.N. Security Council. We’ve passed financial reform through the Senate, and I think it’s likely that that bill will be signed into law before the July 4th recess. We’ve nominated a Supreme Court justice that I believe will be confirmed before the August recess. We’ve completed fairly recently a new START treaty that we believe will be ratified by the end of the year. We’ll get a chance tomorrow to evaluate the progress that we’re making through the jobs report on our economic recovery.
So we have had a very full agenda, not just in the past 44 or 45 days, but for the past 16 months. But I -- there’s a whole lot of people working on a whole lot of things in the White House, and we’re able to do more than several things at once.
Q It’s clear that the U.S. government knew about the flotilla before the Israeli army confronted it --
MR. GIBBS: Right.
Q -- the Israeli navy confronted it. What does the administration think the purpose of the flotilla was? Does the administration -- does the Obama administration think it was on a humanitarian mission? Does it think it was trying to provoke Israel into a reaction? What was the opinion of the government when it was talking to Israel about --
MR. GIBBS: I’ve not asked NSC that directly, Jake. I can try to have NSC find out what -- again, there’s a blockade, as you know, to ensure that weapons are not brought in for Hamas.
At the same time, you’ve heard the President recently, and certainly the Secretary of State, discuss what we believe is an unsustainable humanitarian presence in Gaza.
Q Does the President -- I assume the President knows that one of the dead was an American.
MR. GIBBS: He does.
Q What was his reaction?
MR. GIBBS: I’m told that -- upon being told this, obviously, he expressed his deep condolences, and we certainly express our deep condolences to his family. Obviously, this is extremely -- extremely horrible news for them. Our ambassador has been in touch with his father. And I would reiterate that we have with the U.N. Security Council condemned the acts that have led to these deaths.
Q We talked about this before and I understand that it was written the way it was, but by condemning the acts, that could condemn the people on the flotilla to a degree, but since I know that that’s a lane that’s not going to lead anywhere, let me just ask this: Does the fact that one of the victims was an American born in Troy, New York, change at all the U.S. view of what happened or the U.S. position on what happened?
MR. GIBBS: Well, not to somewhat go down the lane you were talking about, again, I would reiterate we’ve condemned the acts and believe --
Q You can go down that lane actually.
MR. GIBBS: I understand. Well, I’m going down the other side of the street that --
Q I already told him it doesn’t go anywhere. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: No, but I -- look, we have called for and the U.N. Security Council presidential statement calls for a full and credible investigation so that we have all the facts about what happened, and that is tremendously important and we have -- I said here just a couple of days ago that that could include international participation in that investigation.
Q Doesn’t it change it to a degree, the fact that one of the dead, one of those killed by the Israeli armed forces, was an American? Doesn’t that by necessity change the view of the U.S. government, of the American government, as to this?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we --
Q It’s different. I mean, I don’t mean to sound callous, but --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, I understand.
Q -- if 10 Greeks are killed or 10 Turks are killed, the U.S. government might condemn the act and think it’s a horrible thing, but it’s different than if an American is killed.
MR. GIBBS: Which, Jake, is why I started the answer to this question by expressing the deep condolences of the United States government and the President’s condolences.
Q Robert, there continue to be concerns about the deepwater moratorium, drilling moratorium, and the impact that it could have over the next 12 to 18 months on jobs, existing jobs, or platforms moving away and what that would mean to high-paying jobs. What is the White House reaction to the potential loss of employment?
MR. GIBBS: Well, Dan, this was something that the President discussed with his team prior to the release of the report that halted the 33 existing drilling actions, a situation we didn’t take lightly. But I think it’s important that -- I think it’s important that we understand exactly why this accident happened and ensure that if there is something that was preventable, that we ensure that every one of these activities, these drilling permits, takes any of that into account.
Understand that what got -- what happened in this incident, on the Deepwater Horizon, was after the drilling reached the reservoir of oil, in the process of capping that well. So each of these 33 deepwater permits are in some -- are at some depth toward reaching that well.
So let’s have an investigation to ensure that the capping of those exploratory wells, with proper blowout preventers, failsafe mechanisms that mean failsafe, that we have a full investigation, and that’s what the commission is going to look into, a regulatory framework that can ensure safe drilling.
I think that’s important. The President thought that was important, and I think the citizens of the Gulf think that’s important.
I think will say this. I think Governor Jindal sent that letter. Governor Jindal has been very critical, rightly so, of BP. Four of those drilling permits were either solely or jointly operated by BP. I don’t know if he’s got more confidence in their drilling procedures than he does in their response efforts, but the President certainly believed that that was something that needed to be looked into before those permits were continued.
Q So the White House acknowledges, then, that there will be a loss of jobs --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think there’s any doubt.
Q -- but this investigation has to go forward to prevent this from happening again.
MR. GIBBS: Understand this, there are a loss of jobs because of what’s happened, right? Your network and everybody else is interviewing fishermen that can’t fish, right? You’re interviewing hotel owners whose hotels -- whose reservations have been canceled. So this is not a zero-sum game.
And, again, let’s ensure that, as the President outlined and what he wants the commission to look at is that there is a regulatory framework that makes drilling as failsafe as BP and other companies say it is. That’s what’s important.
Q Does the White House believe that it was a mistake for the President not to meet with fishermen or other local business people during his last visit?
MR. GIBBS: He met with fishermen on May the 1st --
Q The first time.
MR. GIBBS: -- when we went down --
Q What about -- there have been -- some criticize that he did not spend enough time talking to the “real people” on the ground. Was that a decision not to do that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I will say the Mayor of Grand Isle told -- well, first of all, I think there was pretty large representation of people in that room. The Mayor of Grand Isle, who generally has, as he said, 10,000 people on his beach for Memorial Day weekend wasn’t likely to have any, as he said. He talked about putting his own credit card out to help fishermen who can’t fish meet their expenses. Similar stories that the President got several weeks earlier from fishermen in the Gulf region.
The President is well aware of the pain and suffering that this accident is causing. And that is why he’s asked that we do everything we can. That’s why very early on in this process, the Small Business Administration set up a process for many of those small business owners to obtain very low interest loans while economic damages are recovered from BP.
Q But --
MR. GIBBS: I would say this, too, the federal government will at some point today send what I would call a bill for $69 million of expenses incurred up to this point to BP to be reimbursed to the taxpayers as a part of the Oil Pollution Act for expenditures in response, for DOD expenditures in moving assets to the region, for a whole host of things that BP will be paying the taxpayers for.*
Q Sixty-nine million?
MR. GIBBS: Sixty-nine million dollars.
Q And how much time do they have to pay that? Is that --
MR. GIBBS: I will -- I don’t know what the time limit is on that.
Q Okay, and then --
MR. GIBBS: That is the first bill, yes.
Q And since the White House has been -- or the administration has been calling a lot of the shots on what takes place in this -- in the Gulf, did the White House pressure at all BP to make the kind of public apology that we’ve been seeing from the CEO in the print and also this video release where he’s been saying “I’m sorry”? Was the White House -- did the White House push for this?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know if others had conversations; whether Admiral Allen, who talks with the CEO, has had conversations. I don’t think there’s any doubt, Dan, that we’ve seen comments from the CEO that he’s apologized for -- rightly so. I don’t -- look, I don’t think a CEO needs to tell people in the Gulf that there’s not any pollution or he’d like his life back. There’s 11 people that we’d all like to have their lives back that were killed the very first night of this incident. And the harm that’s being done there will take years to fix. We will hold BP responsible throughout this process.
Q Did anyone in the White House yell at him for making those comments?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know the answer to that.
Q Robert, with the President first in the Rose Garden threatening or at least talking about the possibility of criminal action and then Holder, Attorney General Holder opening the criminal investigation, has that made the relationship with BP difficult in any way?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q I mean, there really seems to be a hostile relationship right now between the two.
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of. How so?
Q Well, when you’re talking about bringing criminal charges against someone and then you’re trying to work with them as a partner to solve a problem, doesn’t that make the situation more difficult?
MR. GIBBS: Well, they have an obligation to fix the hole that’s on the bottom of the ocean floor. We have an obligation as the federal government to ensure that the laws of this country have been and are upheld.
Q But does that inevitably --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t think so.
Q -- lead to a more difficult relationship and a more difficult time working together to get this done?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of, no.
Q Is the President -- does the President believe, as some of his critics say, that he’s kind of playing catch up now, that he didn’t go very often in the beginning -- this will be only his third trip. Is he going to be going more regularly to --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know -- which critic are you talking about?
Q You could name dozens of them. Let’s go with Colin Powell and James Carville, who believe he was too slow out of the --
MR. GIBBS: I mean, best I can -- each has said that we ought to have a comprehensive response. I think --
Q But they also said that he should have done what he did when he went down there, he should have done everything two weeks earlier.
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I don’t know what their critique was on -- when the President was there on May the 1st so -- or May the 2nd, I’m sorry, it was the day after.
Q But you said the visit the other day was a very -- it was a tremendously -- last week was tremendously productive.
MR. GIBBS: It was tremendously productive.
Q Well, if he’d gone two weeks before, wouldn’t it have been better -- tremendously --
MR. GIBBS: He went three weeks before, and that visit was also productive.
Q But if it was tremendously productive that Friday, wouldn’t it have been more productive to go the week before and the week before?
MR. GIBBS: He went the week before the week before the week before.
Q But he didn’t go all those in between.
MR. GIBBS: You’re right, he did not go each of the last weeks.
Q Is he going to be in the future, do you think? This is two Fridays in a row.
MR. GIBBS: He will be there as often as the situation dictates. Obviously it is -- we’re dealing with the worst environmental disaster in our nation’s history. We are -- we have mobilized the largest federal response in our nation’s history. And we will continue to make sure that all is being done to plug the leak and to deal with the environmental and economic consequences of what that pollution has caused.
Q Is Indonesia still on?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t have any updates on the schedule. As soon as -- if I do or as soon as I do, I’ll certainly let you guys know.
Q Just to stay on that theme, how much of the President’s schedule is being changed or altered due to the spill at this point? Can you just describe a little bit of how much of the President’s day, his schedule --
MR. GIBBS: I mean, he gets an update in the Oval Office each day between the daily intelligence briefing and generally the daily economic briefing.
Q Who does the update?
MR. GIBBS: Carol and John Brennan. And like a whole host of issues, the President gets regular updates on -- the President gets regular updates on a whole host of issues, including oil.
Q Is there -- when you see a Jon Stewart mocking the President’s time --
MR. GIBBS: I got to tell you, Chuck, I haven’t --
Q I understand but --
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t watched TV in two weeks that isn’t news, so I --
Q Fair enough.
MR. GIBBS: I love Jon Stewart, he’s a funny guy, but I have not watched him recently.
Q He critiques on how much time the President is spending on some of the ceremonial aspects of the presidency that he’s had to deal with.
MR. GIBBS: Chuck, we’re still the President for -- the President is the President 24 hours a day. I don’t think you’d suggest we stop doing intelligence briefings on things like Afghanistan and Pakistan because of what’s going on in the Gulf, just like what was going on in Afghanistan and Pakistan didn’t limit what -- our response to the Gulf. I mean, this is -- on any given day, the President is working on -- even on the quiet days, and there haven’t been many -- even on the quiet days, the President is working on a whole host of issues.
And, again, I’d refer you back to what I said earlier, the notion somehow that our legislative schedule has somehow been curtailed, I don’t -- we seem to be well on track to get a new Supreme Court justice by the August recess. My hunch is we’ll sign, again, a financial reform bill prior to the July 4th recess. We’re going to get U.N. sanctions against Iran, which not a lot of people thought six weeks ago at the beginning of this spill we had a chance of getting. People didn’t think we had a chance of getting this at the beginning of the week, I would point out.
So I appreciate that sometimes you guys have one story, you do one story a day. We don’t necessarily deal with just one subject every day.
Q A deputy of the Interior Department Sylvia Baca had -- went from the Clinton administration to working for BP; now she’s back in the Obama administration in the Interior Department. Have you asked her to take --
MR. GIBBS: Anybody that’s in -- nobody that comes into this administration can regulate any employer that they worked for previously.
Q She’s totally been off --
MR. GIBBS: Cannot work for anything related to that.
Q And was it -- you say you took -- you quoted Tony Hayward just now about his comments that he made about his own life, trying to get his own life back -- do you think at this point he is no longer a helpful face for BP?
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to do their PR. They’ll make their decisions on who they think should brief, who they think should talk to the American people. I do hope this, I do hope that the company continues to answer the questions that I think the American people want to know the answers to. That’s important to do.
Q And one more thing, have you been briefed on the next plan? You know, every time there seems to be every one of these attempts at stopping the leak, the plan -- the next plan has been in the works -- do you -- are you guys aware of the next plan that’s in the works at this phase?
Q Or the next 10 --
Q Or at least the next one --
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’d say this. Look, there are -- there always was -- based on the type of cap that will go on the riser was predicated on the, for lack of a better term, the smoothness of the cut. So I believe there are several different caps that are there. I’m told that they’re moving ships into the region -- or I’m sorry, moving ships over the well. The cap will be lowered in slowly to ensure that the hydrates problem that we encountered with previous attempts you minimize.
Look, there are -- there will continue to be contingencies on what happens --
Q The history of the spill already has been each one of these things has failed and then they go to the next thing.
MR. GIBBS: But look, I think it’s important -- I do think it’s important to understand there is one permanent solution. That’s a relief well. BP began to drill that relief well -- I think one of the things that we’ve certainly already taken from this is you need to have built-in redundancy into the system. That’s why we asked them to start drilling a second well. And if for some reason a problem is incurred in either of those first two wells, we’ll ask them to drill a third well. So there’s a whole host of different scenarios, Chuck, that we’re working through.
Q On Romanoff -- part of the defense on the Joe Sestak matter was that it was an unpaid position and it was done through an intermediary, Bill Clinton. In this case, these were three paid -- potentially paid positions done by the deputy chief of staff. Does that make the Romanoff job offer fundamentally different and perhaps fundamentally more troubling?
MR. GIBBS: Let’s be clear. There wasn’t a job offer. There wasn’t a job promised. Mr. Romanoff applied for a job in government service during the transition. I think that’s -- that’s the fact pattern.
Q Right, but if I apply for a job and then an employer comes back and says, how about these three, does my application for the job change the fact that I might have been offered those three jobs?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t -- let’s walk away from your hypothetical, or add to your hypothetical that when you applied for that job you expressed an interest in several different departments like USAID.
Q And on -- I’m sorry, quickly back to BP, I don’t know -- have you heard anything from the flow rate people at the U.S. Geological Survey on what they are seeing from the cut riser? And do you feel like the images at least are substantiating what you thought would happen and what BP did not think --
MR. GIBBS: Jonathan, it’s a good question, and I will have somebody go -- I do not know of any new estimates on -- from the flow rate technical group. Again, we thought it was important that, based on what we heard from Dr. McNutt at USGS, who’s the head of the flow rate technical group, that cutting the top off that riser would likely -- or could increase the amount of hydrocarbon by 20 percent.
I do not know if they have -- and I’m not entirely sure that you could altogether ascertain just from the flat-screen image of the riser cut the degree to which that hydrocarbon flow had indeed increased. But let me check on the flow rate --
Q If the U.S. is in charge of this oil spill, why is the BP corporation being -- going to be giving operational updates?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, the remotely operated vehicles, the sheer cut operation, is being conducted by them, as we’ve said, because they have -- they are the only people in this scenario that have the type of technical expertise. In order for a cut with a diamond saw or a sheer cut to happen, the federal on-scene coordinator, Admiral Watson, has to sign off on that -- Rear Admiral Watson, sorry.
Q So you’re fine with BP continuing to have a voice as the --
MR. GIBBS: I think it’s important that BP continue to have a voice. There are -- I assume that there are -- look, I love Thad Allen, I don’t think he’s -- there are certainly technical questions that BP can and should answer and, look, I think the American people and the citizens of the Gulf are owed an explanation about -- from BP of what they’re seeing and what’s going on.
Q Can you be a little more specific about the President’s trip tomorrow, what his goals are? What does he hope to accomplish and bring home and see any results?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, as I said to Caren, I think that the -- evaluating on the ground every effort of the response, both on the surface of the water and in the environmental damage that’s been done, but also in the economic damage that’s been and being done in the Gulf to small business owners everywhere down there. I think he’ll get a chance, again, to talk to some of those folks and get a chance to get -- talk directly with Admiral Allen again, as well as understand how the -- each state in the Gulf is implementing its own state response plan and whatever concerns they have in wanting to augment the plans developed by them for a spill.
Q So a fact-finding trip?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President will want to hear any update that’s going on but also hear directly from -- as he did in the first trip, hear from non-elected individuals who are also suffering firsthand at this, as are those that those officials represent.
Q One quick question on the flotilla. Before this incident happened, the U.S. government urged Israel to exercise caution and restraint. Does the White House feel that Israel heeded those words?
MR. GIBBS: Well, let me just say there are a lot of questions that you all may have that I think will be helped by the investigation that the United States has called for. We would continue to encourage Israel to -- while maintaining a blockade not to have -- I think we all -- none of us want a repeat of what happened.
Q How much meeting of the minds was there in the President’s meeting today with Arizona Governor Brewer?
MR. GIBBS: I was not in the meeting, but I think you heard her say and I think there’s a readout from our office that will go out discussing efforts that the administration has made along the border with the National Guard and other devices to strengthen border security; obviously a long discussion about comprehensive immigration reform, which, again, I think you heard the governor discuss, which is the only way that we’re going to solve this crisis. It is not going to be solved by one method alone.
Q She said that she’d like to see construction of a fence begin in a month or so. Is that likely?
MR. GIBBS: I need to get an update on that. I saw that out of the meeting and I have not had a chance to talk to anybody.
Q On the -- China’s decision to rescind the invitation to Secretary Gates, do you see that as a direct result of the Taiwan arms sale? Is there another reason for it?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know. I’d direct you to the Department of Defense on that.
Q Does it have implications for U.S.-China relations?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, we have -- there was a -- you have two countries that disagreed on our arms sales, and countries like China and the United States are going to have times in which, whether it’s North Korean sanctions in front of the U.N. last year or Iran sanctions in front of the U.N. this year, where we agree, and there will be issues that we disagree on. And that’s what you have in international relations.
Q A couple of questions on the commission -- the oil spill commission. Does the President believe everything should be on the table in terms of the recommendations that the commission might ultimately come to in regards to future of oil drilling?
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q And so does that include the possibility that they could recommend that the risks of drilling in deepwater are simply too great and that it should be stopped?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I assume they will look at that, and I think the President would want to be assured -- as he certainly said in meetings here -- that at the very least, you have to have a plan, a credible plan for responding to what potentially could happen to ensure that you can stop something that you start, which 45 days later we know BP is not showing good results on.
I will say this. We have -- there are thousands of wells in the Gulf. And we have -- as we have slowed deepwater permits, we have continued exploratory drilling in shallow water. That continues, and they’re evaluating -- continue to evaluate permits to continue to drill in shallow water because we -- I think the last time I saw the number was around 60 percent of our oil is imported from overseas. We have to break our dependence on foreign oil. The President outlined a comprehensive strategy that included more drilling because -- well, because we have to -- we’re going to have to take steps to break our dependence on foreign oil.
That’s why we’ve invested in a whole host of clean energy projects through the Recovery Act. But at the same time, we’re all still driving cars.
Q So I guess that almost suggests that he -- that if they were to come back and say, look, as there are environmentalists and others out there who say drilling is just too dangerous, fundamentally in that deep of water just is never going to be safe --
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I think the President -- I think the President has been very candid in both -- in asking this commission to look at not just the companies, but obviously he’s not spared the government the rod on this as well, in terms of ensuring that there’s a regulatory framework that works for the American people.
Again, we -- there are, as I -- there are thousands of wells down there that are producing oil that we’re going to use right now. So the commission has a lot of breadth in dealing with and in examining that regulatory framework.
Q One last question on the setting up the commission, do you have any guidance on when he’s going to be naming the rest of the folks? And in terms of the --
MR. GIBBS: In the next couple of days. I think they’re finishing that up now.
Q And the staff that -- I mean, they have to find the place to meet and all that --
MR. GIBBS: They will find an executive director and relevant staff, too, to begin to handle a whole host of questions, one of which they’ll look at which are these -- which are the 33 current permits that have been frozen.
Q Robert, you just said earlier that you’re very confident that the U.S. will be able to get through an Iran sanctions resolution through the U.N.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q Are you saying then that the Israeli flotilla incident had no effect at all on our efforts on Iran?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I’ve obviously not spoken with each member -- each of the 15 members of the U.N. Security Council. I think the President and the team here remain confident that we start with the P5-plus-1 in support of that resolution and believe that when that resolution is voted on, likely within the next week, that they will have a number that will pass that resolution.
Q And back to taking the President’s emotional temperature, I just want to get back to something that Jake asked you about on the American who was killed in the flotilla. You said the President was very sorry. Was he angry?
MR. GIBBS: I was told he expressed his condolences. I was not -- this I think was during the PDB, and I was not in the PDB.
Q Briefly, Robert, on the Romanoff issue, are there other offers that have been made to clear primary opponents away?
MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry?
Q Besides the two that we know about, are there other offers?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q Okay, your defense of this practice, can we expect the White House staff will continue to look on that as a possible means of preventing people running against each other?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I think we’ve -- I would draw you to the circumstances that we’ve talked about in each one of these cases, Mark.
Q They’re peculiar, they’re not -- those circumstances are not likely to be repeated? I mean, is this likely to happen again?
MR. GIBBS: Again, I would point you to the -- I would point you to the fact pattern in each one of them.
Q Robert, a quick question on the meeting with the Governor of Arizona. She said the solution for the illegal immigration problem should be border security first, and then immigration reform. Does the President believe in that for the solution?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think the President believes that there are -- those things have to happen together. Look, if there was one solution to this crisis, my guess is somebody would have either tried it or done it long ago. We know that’s not the case. I think the President has outlined his beliefs on this. His record in the Senate demonstrate this. And the work that he’s done here to encourage a bipartisan solution to a very emotional issue is something he continues to work on.
Q Thank you, Robert. On North Korea, the United States has existing economic sanctions against North Korea under the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1874. Will the U.S. continue to provide humanitarian aid to North Korea?
MR. GIBBS: Let me check with NSC on that. I don’t know of any change in that, but I will double-check on that.
Q Thank you.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q Robert, question on the National Guard troops heading down to the border. In his news conference last week, the President said this wasn’t a response to the Arizona immigration law; in fact, it was part of a plan that had been discussed since as early as last year. So my question is, what is it a response to? What happened to make him think the border wasn’t secure enough right now?**
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think you -- I don’t think this is a problem that has -- this is a problem that has -- I think if you go back several administrations you see that at different time periods there have been more National Guard on the border. During the Clinton administration, I think at four different times they moved members of the National Guard to the border; several different times during the Bush administration.
Obviously, what has the -- what President Calderón has done to fight crime and gangs is something that has caused increased violence as well.
Q Robert, the full and credible report on the flotilla incident, just for timing purposes -- well, first of all, who’s doing it? Do you know who is actually --
MR. GIBBS: It’s an Israeli investigation.
Q It’s an Israeli investigation?
MR. GIBBS: That’s my understanding, yes.
Q Well, wait, you guys didn’t support -- you guys came out supporting for an independent investigation, correct?
MR. GIBBS: Well, which is why I said two days ago that that could include international participation. I would point you to that.
Q Do you know anything about the timing of a report like that?
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q Are we talking about like a week or --
MR. GIBBS: I don’t know.
Q Another scheduling thing -- the Indonesia trip is still on the schedule?
MR. GIBBS: Yes, I said earlier to Chip --
Q I think my hearing isn’t working, I don’t know -- it’s still on the schedule?
Q I spoke in Indonesian. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: Yes, exactly. If anything changes, we’ll let you know.
Q Okay, and also just could you say how the meeting with Governor Brewer came about? Was that by -- did the White House invite her, and why?
MR. GIBBS: I think she requested the meeting. I don’t know when she requested it. I saw an e-mail several days ago that we were adding that meeting.
Q And why did the President decide he wanted to do that meeting?
MR. GIBBS: Well, look, I -- look, you’re not going to deal with the immigration issue without dealing with what’s happening along the border, and certainly Arizona is a big part of that.
Obviously, Arizona has taken -- because of a lack of a federal response in comprehensive immigration reform, has pointed to state efforts that the President believes could be harmful. And the Justice Department is evaluating that law for further action. But, look, I don’t think you’re going to deal with comprehensive immigration reform and the circumstances around the border without dealing with Arizona.
Q Thanks. Two-parter. I think even after seeing Governor Brewer come back out, many of us are not really clear what the point -- I mean, did anything actually get accomplished in there? Does he feel that he’s of any closer of a mind with her on some of these conflicts? And do you expect that we’ll see any other follow-ups with her? She said some officials are going down there. He’s not going down there, is he? I mean --
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q -- did anything actually happen? Or did they just like talk a lot? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I’m not going to be -- what are meetings like at McClatchy? Because I -- (laughter.) I don’t know -- I don’t -- maybe I’m going to the wrong meetings. You know, occasionally we look at our -- well, more than occasionally we look at our BlackBerries, but I -- look, there are viewpoints that she has, clearly, and were expressed in her signature on a law about how we deal with immigration.
As was said earlier, she’s got a point of view that you have to do border security first. The President has a view that we have to have comprehensive immigration reform. I’ll say this, Margaret, I saw the Governor say that one of the results of the meeting is I think she believes will be better communication between the administration and her state. And I think that’s always a positive development.
But, look, the President has talked about this, the President talked about this at the Republican Caucus, and the President has talked about it here at the White House. John McCain was very instrumental in getting immigration reform to the point that it was in 2005, 2006 and 2007. I doubt we’re going to get comprehensive immigration reform if we don’t have John McCain doing what he believed in those years. She’s the governor of that state, and hopefully will let both the senators of Arizona and throughout the country know that the way to best deal with immigration reform is to do it comprehensively at a federal level.
Q Another quick question.
MR. GIBBS: Yes.
Q When was the planning for the summer --
MR. GIBBS: I do want to know about the McClatchy meetings, by the way --
Q Anytime you’d like to --
MR. GIBBS: That sounds --
Q -- spend the morning at our shop, you’re formally welcome. When it comes to the Obamas planning their summer, is there any discussion now in light of the oil spill to them perhaps vacationing on a Gulf beach? Maybe that would be disruptive, but is that something that --
MR. GIBBS: I have not been involved in their August plans. I don’t know the answer to that.
Q Thank you, Robert. Two brief questions. You said it was in the President’s interest to see that supporters of his are not in a political conflict. Does that mean he’s fully committed to campaigning for and supporting Congressman Kendrick Meek, the certain Democratic nominee for the Senate in Florida?
MR. GIBBS: He supports his campaign for Senate, yes.
Q Okay. And he’ll campaign for him?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t have a campaign schedule in front of me, but we’re supportive of Congressman Meek.
Q And the other thing I wanted to ask you was, I forwarded you my correspondence from KBR, the spinoff company from Halliburton, which won a bid in a competitive contract, had it retained in an apparent no-bid contract. Could you address that?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I think as you mentioned in that e-mail, it appeared as if the contract was simply -- was, as you said, retained after a competitive bidding process, which I think is consistent with everyone’s viewpoint. And I don’t know if DOD has anything else to offer on that.
Q Okay. So you don’t see it as contradicting the President’s statement about no-bid?
MR. GIBBS: I don’t. I don’t.
Q A purely factual question: $69 million -- can you break that down for us in a way that we can sort of extrapolate the rate at which the government is spending money and they’re going to be billing BP?
MR. GIBBS: We have -- I left one sheet on my desk on this but I think LaBolt has that. Give me one second and I’ll --
Q And is that the sum total of the costs incurred so far?
MR. GIBBS: Up to this point, yes. Let me get --
Q By the government --
MR. GIBBS: By the U.S. government, yes. Let me -- give me one second and I’ll -- Ben LaBolt, please come to the front. (Laughter.)
Q See if he’s watching.
Q Robert, we’ve heard --
MR. GIBBS: I was going to say, that’s a big test. (Laughter.) Poor guy.
Q Robert, we’ve heard the President say over and over again around the country in these speeches that he’s -- where he decries sort of the Washington business as usual culture, and your defense of these two incidents with Sestak and Romanoff, if I understand them, is essentially that this is Washington business as usual. Do you think that undercuts his larger argument and do you think there’s any hypocrisy there?
MR. GIBBS: No, look, I think the -- the ethics laws that we have that our administration lives by; the transparency of allowing you to understand who comes into this White House, who they meet with, and when they come; not taking political contributions during the campaign from lobbyists and PACs, are differences in the way that Washington work, Glenn, and those are efforts that we’re quite proud of.
Q But we’re not just talking about necessarily laws, we’re talking about sort of the optics of the situation, and this is --
MR. GIBBS: What I just outlined --
Q But this is --
MR. GIBBS: -- none of those are laws.
Q But this is something --
MR. GIBBS: Those were executive orders and decisions that the President made.
Q But this is more than just sort of procedures and structure. This is an article of faith for the President. He talks about this stuff all the time. Does this disturb him at all? Does he want to --
MR. GIBBS: Again, I did not talk to him about this.
Q Well, wait a minute, about Sestak you didn’t talk -- you don’t have his opinion? He asked specifically about Romanoff, but did he have an opinion about what happened with the Sestak situation?
MR. GIBBS: I have not talked to him about Sestak -- on Friday I was with him in the Gulf and we were working on oil.
Q And other than those two, Robert, you guys have not tried to dissuade others --
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q What about Paterson?
MR. GIBBS: Not that I’m aware of.
Q You ticked off a bunch of the things that you guys have been doing, but you didn’t mention Guantanamo. Have you put that on the shelf, closing Guantanamo, or where does that stand right now?
MR. GIBBS: No, and in fact I think a report was recently I think sent to Congress and recently made public of the evaluations that were done of the inmates at the Guantanamo prison. I have not heard any updates on decisions about criminal trials, though -- I have not heard that.
Q Robert, does the news about a death of an American change the White House’s perspective? As you know, the Turks were among the most vocal in criticizing the response from the White House. Is there any talk about maybe reevaluating, going back at this, and making either another statement or weighing in somehow?
MR. GIBBS: Well, again, I think we -- our statement and the actions of the Security Council and -- obviously the President had a good conversation two days ago with Prime Minister Erdogan and I think it is important, as I’ve said before, that a full and credible investigation be had to understand exactly what the facts are.
Go ahead, and then I’ll go to Sam.
Q Robert, Senator Webb outlined in Bangkok his reasons for cancelling his Burma visit, and I wonder is the President still committed to the dialogue --
MR. GIBBS: LaBolt is missing, so we’ll get back to you, I’m sorry. (Laughter.) The guy’s working until like 10:00 at night and he probably found lunch. Sorry, go ahead.
Q Sorry about that. Is the President still committed to the dialogue with Burma’s military government? And is there consideration being given to the special envoy that Senator Webb also --
MR. GIBBS: Let me check with -- I just saw briefly that but I have not a lot of guidance on that.
Q Thank you, Robert. You, again -- you listed a number of things that you plan to do legislatively. Is there anything specifically that you want to accomplish before the visit of the Russian President expected later this month?
MR. GIBBS: Well, I don’t think there will be -- I don’t think anything legislatively prior to that. I know that we’ve certainly sent the START -- the New START treaty and the material up to the Senate, just as it has been done in Russia, and expect that we will continue to make progress and see that that treaty is ratified by year’s end.
Q Back on Sestak and Romanoff, I understand that the White House wanted to avoid a costly primary fight in each of those races, but what kind of message does this offering or dangling of job opportunities send to the people in those states who actually wanted a choice for their candidate, considering that both Specter and Michael Bennet were neither elected -- both were pushed -- not pushed -- let into office either through a party switch or an appointment from the governor?
MR. GIBBS: I’m sorry, what’s the question?
Q What kind of message is sent to the voters in those states who didn’t -- who wanted a choice for their candidate for Senate -- the Democratic primary --
MR. GIBBS: Obviously Pennsylvania is -- we’ve had a primary and that’s been done. Again, the President is supportive of -- as we said months ago -- supportive of incumbent Senator Michael Bennet, somebody who has done groundbreaking work first as a superintendent and is involved with a whole host of things that the President is supportive of, particularly as it relates to ethics reform.
Q But the argument among people like -- including a defender of yours, Richard Painter, the Bush ethics lawyer who actually defended the practice, is that it’s seedy in the sense that you’re not giving people a choice in the primary.
MR. GIBBS: Tim, I think that’s a -- each individual state decides I believe how a vacancy is going to be filled and I’m not going to get into those 50 state decisions.
Thanks, guys. We’ll get you the --
Q Hey, Robert, instant replay in baseball?
MR. GIBBS: Well -- (laughter.) I’ll say this --
Q That’s my team now, be careful.
MR. GIBBS: Which one?
MR. GIBBS: Well, you and I --
Q All right, all right. (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: A couple of things.
Q Are you speaking for yourself here?
MR. GIBBS: I’m speaking with the full weight of the federal government -- (laughter) -- for whatever that’s worth. No, let me say -- I’ll say a couple things. I hope that baseball awards a perfect game to that pitcher.
Q They’re not going to do it.
MR. GIBBS: They’re not going to do it?
Q They’re not going to do it.
MR. BURTON: No, no, no, it’s early.
MR. GIBBS: All right, we’re working on -- we’re going to work on an executive order. (Laughter.) But I will say this -- I think that -- I have a six-year-old right now who’s playing baseball.
Q You have a son? (Laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: I missed his game. Yes, I’ve seen a few pictures of your kids, too. (Laughter.) Something we can all be proud of.
I missed his game last night -- three hits, just saying. But I think everybody that watched what happened and understood -- there’s been 20 perfect games in the history of baseball. To watch an umpire take responsibility and to watch a pitcher do what he did, the type of sportsmanship that was exhibited there -- I think that gives a lot of heart, whether you’re a six-year-old just learning how to play baseball, Kirk, whether you’re somebody like you or I who have -- who watch baseball for the sheer enjoyment of the game -- I think it’s tremendously heartening to see somebody understand that they made a mistake and somebody accept the apology from somebody who made that mistake. I think that’s a good lesson in baseball. It’s probably a good lesson in Washington.
Q What did the President have to say about it?
MR. GIBBS: I haven’t talked to him about it.
3:22 P.M. EDT
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