The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Gaggle by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest Aboard Air Force One en route Pittsburgh, PA
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
10:24 A.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Good morning, everybody.
Q Good morning.
MR. EARNEST: So a couple of updates that I’ll start with. At 8:00 a.m. this morning the President’s senior counterterrorism advisor John Brennan convened a meeting of senior counterterrorism officials in the Situation Room today. They reviewed the security preparations that have been in place this weekend, and they discussed the nature of the threat that’s still out there.
I don’t have anything to report out of that meeting; that was a previously scheduled meeting. But that was something that they convened at 8:00 a.m. this morning.
Q Was anything reported to the President out of the meeting?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t think -- there was no specific piece of new information that was reported at that meeting that was reported to the President. So the answer to that is no.
Q This was that threat from a few days ago?
Q Sorry, did you say it was a previously scheduled meeting?
MR. EARNEST: Yes, it was -- I just want to make it clear that it wasn’t an emergency meeting that was hastily called. This is something that they had previously arranged for 8:00 a.m. this morning.
Q So there’s no new information on any more threats?
MR. EARNEST: That’s correct.
MR. EARNEST: The second thing I thought I would do is just give you a little sense of the way that the President spent his time on the ground in New York and his impressions of it. A couple of things that I will -- that he noted to me.
The first is that he was impressed by the memorial at the -- the September 11 Memorial that he visited with President Bush and Mrs. Bush this morning. He noted that there had been some challenges in the design and construction of the memorial, but he was pleased that they ended up with something that, in his words, “meets the moment.”
He also said that he was touched by the -- sort of the serene setting of the reading of the names this morning. And he and the First Lady were particularly moved by the families of those were lost, who participated in the ceremony, in particular the children.
Q Can you tell us how that reading that he read was chosen?
MR. EARNEST: The President chose a scripture which he believed was most appropriate -- he believed it was particularly appropriate to use -- to read scripture this morning. And he chose a passage that talks of persevering through very difficult challenges and emerging from those challenges stronger.
Q Can you discuss the interplay between he and President Bush? Did they have any discussions at all?
MR. EARNEST: President Obama and the First Lady were able to spend a little bit of time this morning with President and Mrs. Bush. It was -- a couple of you have asked -- this is the first time that they had -- that President Obama had seen President Bush since the event in the Rose Garden to talk about relief from the Haiti earthquake.
You also may recall that the two Presidents last spoke on the night of the successful bin Laden raid. But the last time that they’d seen one another in person was in January of 2010 in the Rose Garden.
Q That was the Haiti event?
MR. EARNEST: That was the Haiti event.
Q Can you give us a list of the family members the President met with today when he was at the memorial?
MR. EARNEST: I’ll look and see if I can do that. The only opportunity that they had to do that was along that ropeline that you saw there at the memorial. I don’t know if we have names, but if we do I’ll see if I can get them for you.
Q Just going back to Bush, do you know what they talked about?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t. But if I did, I probably wouldn’t read that out.
Q Nothing to report out of the 8:00 a.m. meeting?
MR. EARNEST: Nothing to report out of that 8:00 a.m.
Q So what -- I mean, is there anything you can tell us about the latest at all? I mean, did the latest look like maybe -- was it overabundance of caution? What was this? Can you sort of wrap up what the security threat appeared to be to you?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t have any additional information on that. I would refer you to DHS if you have additional questions about that.
Q That was definitely a previously scheduled non-emergency meeting? He was going to have it anyway?
MR. EARNEST: That’s correct. That’s correct.
Q Does the fact that Donilon is traveling today have anything to do with the threats or concern about threats?
MR. EARNEST: Obviously the National Security Advisor does travel with the President on occasion. But certainly, if necessary, he would be able to be in position to brief the President.
I guess the one last thing that I thought I would do is I know a couple of you and your colleagues have asked about a preview of the President’s remarks tonight at the Kennedy Center. I can tell you that he’s still working on those remarks and editing them on the flight here. But I did make a couple of notes in terms of what -- he will acknowledge that there are certain things -- a number of things about our country that have changed since 9/11. In particular, those are some changes to our homeland security posture and acknowledgment of the persistent threat; and certainly, our men and women in uniform who have borne the brunt of their service and sacrifice to take the war to al Qaeda.
But the President will also talk about the very important things that haven’t changed in the last 10 years, in terms of our nation’s ongoing commitment to liberty and freedom and the values that bind this country together. He will also talk about the -- how 10 years later we have emerged even stronger as a nation and more committed than ever to those values.
He’ll also talk about the fact that he spent some time today at three of the most tangible reminders that our nation is well along the way of rebuilding. Obviously, that’s the new tower that’s being constructed at Ground Zero, the new memorial that was dedicated yesterday outside Shanksville, and the rebuilt Pentagon that he’ll visit later this afternoon.
I think that’s all that I have. I don’t know if there are any other questions.
Q How long is he speaking tonight, Josh? Do you know how long?
MR. EARNEST: It’s still being edited, but I don’t anticipate it will be particularly long -- 10 to 15 minutes probably.
Q Did he meet with any families this morning?
MR. EARNEST: Other than the ropeline that you saw, he has not.
Q Is he expected to?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t know. If he does, we’ll try to flag that for you. I believe that he’s going to work a ropeline in Shanksville, similar to the conversations that he had at Ground Zero.
Q Does he speak in Shanksville?
MR. EARNEST: He will not. He’ll participate in a wreath-laying, and then if the conditions will allow, he and the First Lady will walk out to the -- to a boulder that marks the site where the flight impacted the ground.
Q He’s not expected to speak at the Pentagon, either, is that right?
MR. EARNEST: That’s correct. Correct. So, again, he’ll participate -- they’ll do a wreath-laying there, and I think he’ll also take a look at the memorial. We will have some background on that as we -- as that gets closer.
Q Thank you.
MR. EARNEST: All right. Thanks, guys.
10:31 A.M. EDT