Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/11/12
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:45 P.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for being here. Before I get started I want to welcome -- we have a number of local television anchors from different parts of the country joining us today. Welcome to the White House briefing room for your daily briefing.
Before I move to questions I wanted to say that this afternoon the President will nominate two outstanding individuals to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia circuit. Caitlin Halligan is general counsel for the New York County District Attorney's Office. She is a nationally recognized appellate litigator who has practiced extensively before the Supreme Court of the United States, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the appellate courts of the state of New York.
As you'll recall, the President was deeply disappointed that a minority of the United States Senate blocked Ms. Halligan's nomination last year, and today he urges her reconsideration, especially given her broad bipartisan support from the legal and law enforcement communities.
Srikanth Srinivasan is the Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He is a highly respected appellate advocate who has spent a distinguished career litigating before the United States Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals both on behalf of the United States and in private practice.
It is worth noting that Mr. Srinivasan is the first South Asian American to ever be nominated to the circuit court. If confirmed, he will be just the third South Asian named to any federal judgeship.
And with that, I will take your questions. Ben Feller of the Associated Press.
Q Thanks, Jay. I wanted to ask you about Secretary Bryson, and then I had a quick follow-up on the economy, please. Has the President spoken to the Secretary? And if so, can you tell us about the substance of that conversation?
MR. CARNEY: The President has not spoken with the Secretary. Jack Lew, the Chief of Staff, did speak with the Secretary this morning.
Q And what was the nature of the conversation?
MR. CARNEY: Well, as you might expect given the events, Jack Lew spoke with Secretary Bryson, and I don't have a detailed readout of that conversation. We're obviously concerned about the incident, concerned about Secretary Bryson's health-related issues that played a role in this incident, and we're still gathering information about it.
Q There are a lot of questions, obviously, about what happened. Can you give us even a basic sense of what happened?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the Commerce Department for details. I can simply tell you that he was engaged, as has been reported, in a couple of traffic incidents and that he, as the Commerce Department has said, suffered a seizure, was hospitalized. But beyond that, I'd refer you to Commerce for the details.
Q Can you tell us whether the President was aware the Secretary had a medical condition that made him prone to seizures?
MR. CARNEY: I have nothing on that for you. I can tell you that the President nominated Secretary Bryson to serve because he felt he was capable of doing the job, and he has been an effective Commerce Secretary since he was confirmed.
Q And one last one on this. So as the matter stands right now, is the Secretary healthy and fit to serve?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I would refer you to the Commerce Department for details on Secretary Bryson and his health and more details on this incident. Again, we're still in the process of gathering information about it. You understand that this happened -- he was alone; he was on private time, not with a security detail; he was hospitalized. So there's more that needs to be learned.
Q My quick question on the economy -- when the President said on Friday that the private sector is doing fine, and then Governor Romney and other Republicans jumped on that, as you know, the basic complaint we heard from the White House was that the sentence was taken out of context. And I'm wondering, since that's the standard, then, can you assure us that the White House and the people who speak for President Obama will not take some unflattering sentence from Governor Romney and use it out of context?
MR. CARNEY: That’s a rather remarkable question. I can simply refer you, again, to what you heard the President talk about as he stood here before you and the context of his rather full discussion of the state of the economy, and the simple fact that in a recovery that has seen 4.3 million jobs in the private sector created, it has also seen a situation where because of massive layoffs of teachers and firefighters and police officers -- a reduction in the public sector.
And by "public sector," we’re talking about state and local governments who have had to lay off teachers from classrooms, firefighters from the force and police officers from the force. That was the context in which he was speaking, which I think everyone in this room was aware of at the time.
Q Right. I’m just asking -- you’re asking for fairness -- isn’t it fair that the standard go both ways?
MR. CARNEY: Well, certainly we believe that you all ought to do your jobs and report on context -- of course. And we think that’s important generally. You’re asking me to speculate about what someone might say in the future in the context of it, and I simply can’t do that. But if you’re asking me if we’re for good reporting filled with context, the answer is yes.
Q In statements from the White House?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I would say that our general position is we’re for truthful, factual, accurate reporting that’s done in context.
Q Jay, what’s the White House’s view of the deal agreed to in the European Union this weekend to bail out Spain’s banks? Does that change the intensity of headwinds from Europe? How do you see it?
MR. CARNEY: With regards to the specific development, I think you heard Secretary Geithner address this, and I would simply echo what he said. We welcome Spain’s action to recapitalize its banking system, and the commitment by its European partners to provide support as concrete steps on the path to financial union, which is vital to the resilience of the eurozone.
Broadly speaking, the eurozone crisis remains a headwind to the U.S. recovery. Our economic stake in Europe is immense, as you know. Europe is our largest economic relationship and our financial systems are deeply connected. And it is because the stakes are so high that throughout this crisis the President and his administration have been in close contact with their European counterparts and closely engaged in developments as they emerge. I can refer you obviously to the G8 summit at Camp David, to the upcoming G20 summit in Mexico, to the conversations that we read out just in the past week the President had with Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, and Prime Ministers Cameron and Monti.
Q Is there anything specific you could say about the President’s response to the weekend deal?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a specific response. I think that our position, the President’s position, was articulated by Secretary Geithner this weekend.
Q Thank you. Does Jack Lew consider the Secretary Bryson’s incident a serious one -- two car accidents? And any questions about his health?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just answered this. I don’t have a specific response to give you from Jack Lew. I think our response is what I said in general, which is concern about the incident, learning more about the incident, obviously the health-related aspect of this. But I don’t have any specifics for you and I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Is health taken into consideration when the President vets somebody for a Cabinet position?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any specifics for you on those procedures. The President obviously nominated Secretary Bryson because he believed he was capable of serving as Commerce Secretary, and he has served effectively as Commerce Secretary since he was confirmed by the United States Senate.
Q Apparently he had some kind of episode when attending a board meeting a couple of years ago.
MR. CARNEY: I have no information on that and don’t know even if it’s true.
Q Is that the kind of thing a Secretary should keep in touch with the White House on? Do you know --
MR. CARNEY: Again, you just told me something that is speculation, and now you’re asking me if it’s something he should have made people aware of. I don’t know anything about that incident, and I do not know whether or not it’s accurate.
Q Should Secretary Bryson’s office have gotten in touch with the White House earlier than last evening?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we’re in discussions with the Commerce Department about this. Again, it was a unique -- let me just step back and say, whenever a senior official is involved in an incident of this nature or any kind of incident like it, it’s obviously important that the White House find out about it. This circumstance was pretty unique in that Secretary Bryson was alone, was not with a security detail, was on private time, which is common for certain members of the Cabinet, and it resulted in him being -- both having a seizure and ending up in the hospital. So, for that reason, you have to recognize this as somewhat unique. But in general, certainly it’s important that the White House be informed as soon as possible.
Q Jay, Fast and Furious -- the House is moving towards a vote on contempt charges. What’s the White House view on this?
MR. CARNEY: The White House view -- as you know, Ed, fighting criminal activity along the Southwest border, including the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexico, remains a priority of this administration. The Attorney General has also made clear that he takes the allegations that have been raised very seriously, and that is why he asked the Inspector General to investigate the matter. It is also why you see the Department cooperating with congressional investigators, including producing 7,600 pages of documents, and including testimony at hours and hours of congressional hearings.
The Attorney General himself has appeared eight times on the Hill, including four hours of testimony just last Thursday. So have several senior Justice Department officials, including the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division and the Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs.
Given the Justice Department’s efforts to accommodate the committee investigation, I can only refer you to the Republican House Judiciary member who recently conceded that this investigation is "politics."
Q Thank you for that one. On the President’s comments about the economy on Friday, you have the local anchors here in part to talk about rural America, agriculture, other issues like that. When you look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics and their numbers on unemployment, agriculture unemployment right now is 9.5 percent -- month of May. Construction workers -- 14.2 percent. When you look at the unemployment rate for government workers, it’s something like 4.2 percent. So when you were talking about these massive layoffs -- and they are serious --they’ve hit teachers, they’ve hit firefighters -- hasn’t it been much worse in some other sectors? So why are you saying there’s a crisis among government workers when the unemployment rate is worse elsewhere?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the unusual cherry-picking of statistics there, Ed. I think it is a fact that since the recovery began, there have been 4.3 million --
Q -- construction is at 14.2 percent --
MR. CARNEY: No question. And I’m glad you brought that up.
Q That’s a fact.
MR. CARNEY: Ed, I’m glad you brought that up, because as you know, and I’m sure you reported on it in depth and regularly -- (laughter) -- one element of the President’s American Jobs Act was aimed specifically at the need to put construction workers back on the job. Unfortunately, Republicans rejected that. They also rejected the element that would have put tens of thousands of teachers back to work who had been laid off in various communities around the country.
The American Jobs Act was designed with the weak spots in our economy in mind. That was the overall purpose of the American Jobs Act. That is why, to this day, it is vital for Congress to take action on it. Because, again, you have a situation where, as we recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression, a recession that was in full bloom when the President took office, that resulted in more than 8 million jobs lost by Americans, we have made some substantial progress. We have seen the economy grow. We have seen it produce 4.3 million -- or almost 4.3 million private sector jobs.
One area where we have seen job loss in that same period is at the state and local government level, largely teacher layoffs and police layoffs and firefighter layoffs. We have also seen, because of the housing bubble that burst, construction workers out of work. And that only elucidates the need to take action to put those construction workers back to work, hence the aspect of the American Jobs Act that specifically addressed that weakness in our economy. And the President, you heard, discussed this on Friday.
There is still much work that needs to be done. I think that's reflected in the rural report today that the President and the administration released, and it's reflected in the elements the President talked about Friday. We suffered from the worst economic crisis in everyone's lifetime here in this room. And when the President took office, we knew we were in trouble. We only found out later just how much trouble we were in economically -- a situation where the economy shrank by almost 9 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, a situation where the President -- in the month the President took the oath of office, the economy shed more than 750,000 jobs.
So the hole was deep and filling it back in takes some time. And we've made some progress. There is work to be done. And that's what you heard the President talk about Friday. That's reflected in the rural report. And it will be reflected in every action the President takes as long as he is in office.
Q Thanks. The UnitedHealth Group over the weekend announced what could be very big news -- or it could be good or bad, depending I guess on how you analyze it -- which is that even if the Supreme Court strikes down the health care overhaul, they would keep most of the protections, but not the ones covering preexisting illnesses. So I want to ask what is the White House's overall reaction to UnitedHealth Care's announcement? And are you having discussions with them or with other health providers, in terms of anticipating getting ready for the Supreme Court action?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not aware of any discussions of that nature and I'm not going to speculate on an outcome that we do not believe will come to pass, because we are confident that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional. So I don't have any comment specifically on that speculative announcement.
Q Do you see it as a positive sign that the group, no matter what, is prepared to go forward with all these other elements?
MR. CARNEY: Well, Margaret, I think I would simply go back to what I said, which is, we believe the Affordable Care Act, which includes numerous provisions that are of great benefit to the American people is constitutional. There is a great precedent to back up that view. And we’ll obviously wait to see what the Supreme Court decides.
MR. CARNEY: Let me -- I want to call on some of the folks who are here visiting us. Matt Smith, from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Is he here? Yes.
Q Hi, Jay. Speaking of Wisconsin, there’s a notion among Republicans, some Democrats, that what happened in the recall last week is a test for November. After analyzing it for a week, what’s the administration’s position on that when it comes to the policy and I guess the amount of money spent in that election, as well?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think my view -- our view is what I expressed last week, which is that this was a unique situation that involved a rematch, if you will, of an incumbent governor running again against the same opponent. It was a situation in which the incumbent governor, because of I think the peculiarities of campaign finance rules in Wisconsin, had a seven or eight to one financial advantage over his opponent. And what you saw was a result pretty similar to the one that you had originally.
The President believes strongly that his message about where we have been and how we need to keep moving forward economically will resonate with voters in Wisconsin, as it will voters in that region of the country and around the country.
So I’m no longer a political analyst. I was once one, but I am no longer, so I’ll leave you and others to make judgments about whether or not that specific election result has much if any bearing on what November will look like, and I certainly could refer you the President’s reelection campaign for more analysis on that.
Let’s see. Mara.
Q After all the events of last week, there have been a new round of calls for the President to lay out more clearly his agenda for a second term, and rely less on just trying to convince voters that things are going in the right direction albeit too slowly. And I’m wondering where are you in your thinking about a big economic speech or something?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I think the President made clear when he stood before you on Friday that what we need to do right now to help this recovery continue, to help the economy grow and help it create jobs now is not a mystery. We’ve been at this -- both as an administration and in negotiations with Congress -- for a number of years now, since the President took office and amidst the worst recession since the Great Depression.
The parameters of the actions that we need to take are pretty clear. We know where the weaknesses are. I referred to some of them in answer to questions from Ed. We have a situation where despite substantial job growth in the private sector, we still have things we need to do like the production tax credit, the refinance initiatives the President has taken that will help the private sector, will help the economy grow.
We need to take measures that will put teachers back in the classroom, which is something that creates a compound benefit. It is good for the teachers, for their families, obviously, that they’re employed and they have a job. It is good for the children in those schools that those teachers are back on the job so that the classrooms are not overcrowded and they’re getting the very best education that they can in their school system.
And that, then, is good for the overall economic economy -- because contrary to some commentary, education is an economic issue. In fact, it may be one of the most fundamental issues. So -- and then again if I could just mention the need to take action to put construction workers back to work -- that’s an element of the President’s plan.
I am sure, and I think I can assure you, that the President will continue to talk about the things we can do and we need to do on the economy, both the measures that he has proposed in the past that Congress can act on and the things that we can do in the future. I don’t have a preview to give you of future speeches by the President. He believes that we have much work to do.
Q But isn’t there danger in focusing on this agenda that you want Congress to pass and they’re not going to do it -- doesn’t it make the president seem powerless?
MR. CARNEY: Look, I think that the public is very much aware of the dynamic that exists in Washington. I mean, I don’t know if you -- we have had a situation for the past several years where the President has -- working with Congress, and where he could, using his executive authority -- taken significant action to help the economy recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
There is still much work to be done. And what we have seen in recent months has been a dynamic where this Congress -- and I speak, obviously, mostly of the Republicans in Congress -- don’t take actions simply because the President says it’s important, they take action because they are pressured to by the American people, by their constituents. And that was the case when, after great resistance and reluctance, Congress took action to extend the payroll tax cut and Congress took action to extend unemployment insurance benefits. That was the case in passage of some other bills earlier this year that the President was able to sign into law.
And the President believes that pressure from the American people on Congress to act now, and not simply to sit on their hands this year because it’s an election year, will result in some progress because the people demand it. The American people aren’t willing to wait until January or after November for their elected leaders to work on their behalf. They expect their leaders to work now on their behalf. And there are things we can and should do now for the economy that will help it grow, will help it create jobs. And the President expects that to happen.
Q Senator McCain over the weekend accused the Obama administration of intentionally leaking information to enhance Obama’s image as a tough guy for reelection. Do you have a response to that?
MR. CARNEY: Well, my response is the same as it was last week, which is that is wrong and absurd. The President addressed this himself from this podium on Friday. He takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, and that has been his posture since he took office.
Q How can you say unequivocally that it’s wrong and absurd? Have you done an internal investigation?
MR. CARNEY: I can tell you that this administration -- this White House, under the guidance of the President, takes very seriously the need to protect classified and sensitive information, the need to do so for our national security interests to protect our counterterrorism operations and other operations that are undertaken by our forces and our government.
I can point you to the authors of some of the materials that have led to this discussion and what they’ve said about the fact that they were not directed to or provided information by the White House in regard to this, that their work was the product of long investigation and reporting elsewhere.
This President -- I just would point you to his comments on Friday about his views on this matter.
Q The President says he has zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks. Then why not support a special prosecutor?
MR. CARNEY: Again, the President addressed this; I addressed it. There have -- I think our seriousness about this matter in general -- about these matters in general has been demonstrated while the President has been in office. I would refer you to the Department of Justice and the FBI when it regards questions of matters under investigation or potential investigation. So there is no need for a special counsel. These things have consistently been investigated when that’s appropriate.
Q The charges that -- given that this investigation will be led by two U.S. attorneys who then report to the Attorney General of the United States, that it’s not an independent investigation.
MR. CARNEY: I think there are very capable people in the Department of Justice and I would refer you to them for that matter. The Attorney General has spoken on this.
Let me go again -- Kristen Remington from Reno. Are you here? Hi.
Q Yes, Reno, Nevada. I’m so happy to be here. Hi, everyone. (Laughter.) Nevada has the highest unemployment rate in the country at 11.7 percent, highest foreclosure, highest loss of income. We’re here obviously to learn more about the rural economic report, as well. How soon do you think that funding will get to small business owners? And will it really make a difference pulling America out of the recession?
MR. CARNEY: Well, I can tell you broadly speaking that whether it’s the housing situation in Nevada, which hit that state so hard, or the actions that this administration and Congress -- working with Congress can take to help small business, that there’s no one single action that will lift different sectors of the economy up after such a terrible recession.
This President has signed into law I believe it’s 18 small business tax cuts. He is pushing Congress now as part of his "To-Do" list for Congress to extend the production tax credit, which has assisted small businesses around the country, and we’ve seen numerous small business owners speak to the need to extend that production tax credit. It directly relates to their capacity to hire more workers and grow their businesses.
There are I think some positive things going on in the rural economy, things that have happened as a result of some of the initiatives the President has pushed and Congress has passed, including investments in clean energy -- the largest investments in clean energy development in history that have been of assistance to rural industries. And the President is going to continue to push that.
This President’s approach to recovering from the great recession is much like his approach to our energy challenges -- it’s an all-of-the-above approach. And he has acted in a number of ways on the need to help homeowners refinance, on the need to provide small businesses the kinds of tax incentives that will get them hiring again, on the need to pass legislation -- as was the case in the Recovery Act and should be the case if Congress were to act -- to make sure that teachers aren't laid off and that policemen and firefighters are back on the job.
So this is the principal business of this administration and this President, and will continue to be while he is in office.
Q Jay, on Secretary Bryson, what was the timing of the seizure in relation to the accident?
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you, as I said in the past, to the Department of Commerce for more details.
Q I've been asking them for hours.
MR. CARNEY: I just don't have those details for you. So I think I would refer you to the Commerce Department.
Q Can you explain why there seems to be a parsing of -- it just seems the Commerce Department is saying he was involved in accidents and he had a seizure, but there's really nothing connecting the dots and it's really an important point.
MR. CARNEY: Well, again, as I pointed out, there was -- the Commerce Secretary was alone; he had a seizure; he was involved in an accident. I would refer you to the Commerce Department for more details. Those circumstances I think speak to some of the difficulty in getting details. But beyond that, I just don't know and I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q Does it seem like it's causal, though, the seizure and the accidents?
MR. CARNEY: Again, I'm certainly not a doctor. I certainly didn't --
Q But you've seen --
MR. CARNEY: I was not a presiding doctor on this case, so I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q He was involved in several accidents. You said, "an accident" just now.
MR. CARNEY: Okay, I read the reports, April. He was involved in several accidents.
Q I mean, for the record --
MR. CARNEY: Thank you for the correction. I think I acknowledged what you all have read, is that there were several accidents as part of this incident.
Q And can you speak to how the White House came to be alerted?
MR. CARNEY: The White House was informed yesterday evening.
MR. CARNEY: By the Commerce Department. I don't have an individual for you. And the President was informed this morning.
Q Jay, one more on that. Can you say whether the Secretary is now on medical leave or if you expect --
MR. CARNEY: Can I refer you to the Commerce Department? They would have the best information on that.
Q It's the kind of thing the President would probably know about, so that's why I'm asking.
MR. CARNEY: I would refer you to the Department of Commerce.
Q Just one more thing on the DOJ leak investigation. What kind of access is the White House prepared to give the prosecutors on this? Will they have unfettered access to emails and officials?
MR. CARNEY: I simply don't know that much about it yet. The Attorney General -- I would refer you to the Department of Justice on it. We obviously -- this administration, again referring to what the President said and his zero tolerance, the views that he expressed here reflects the approach that this administration, this White House in particular has taken. But I don’t -- I cannot speculate about an investigation that has not begun.
Q No, I'm asking from a White House --
MR. CARNEY: Again, I cannot speculate about what our disposition is going to be to an investigation that was just recently announced.
Q Jay, when a Secretary is confirmed, are there any types of mandatory physicals and examinations that they have to take once --
MR. CARNEY: April, I appreciate the question. I don’t have any details about that. I think that, again, I can simply say that the President, when he nominated Mr. Bryson to be Commerce Secretary, believed that he was capable of serving as Commerce Secretary, and, in fact, Secretary Bryson has served effectively as Commerce Secretary since he was confirmed. I don’t have any details of the process of the nominating process beyond that.
Q In the last question, you’ve pointed out so clearly and wonderfully that we have guests that have been asking questions, particularly from I guess states that could be purple or trying to be purple. What’s the effort in having questions come -- we welcome them, but talk to us about the White House picking up this regional --
MR. CARNEY: Well, today we’re hosting another installment of our "Live from the White House" series, inviting local television anchors from across the country to broadcast the evening news from the South Lawn. This time we’ve invited anchors from markets with significant rural populations so their viewers can hear the President talk about his administration’s record of and commitment to investing in rural America.
These interviews come as the White House makes two announcements today. One, President Obama announced investments to help rural small businesses expand and hire. Last August at the White House Rural Economic Forum, President Obama announced a new commitment to invest in rural businesses through the Small Business Investment Company, a program at no cost to taxpayers.
Now he is announcing that more than $400 million has already been invested in this fiscal year in these businesses through the Small Business Administration’s Small Business Investment Company program, and that nearly $2 billion in additional funding will be invested at by the end of fiscal year 2016.
Secondly, the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council, and the Department of Agriculture released a new report, which notes progress that has been made in the agricultural economy, and details steps the Obama administration has taken to help strengthen the farm economy and support jobs and growth in rural America.
Broadly speaking, April, I’d say this is part of a series that we have undertaken here at the White House to bring local television and other reporters to the White House to talk to the President, because while we believe the White House press corps, the national press corps serves a vital role and is an important avenue through which people across America get their information, the fact is a lot of Americans get their information from local news, from local television, local newspapers, and the President is very interested in talking to reporters from those outlets.
Q Did they submit their questions to you ahead of time? And how did you know who they were?
MR. CARNEY: Well, because we invited them and I have a list of their names. (Laughter.)
Q Did they submit the questions to you?
MR. CARNEY: No.
Q Thanks, Jay. Overseas just for a second before we get back to that issue. (Laughter.) On Pakistan, U.S. negotiators have been pulled out. The Pentagon says they may be sent back in on short notice. But why is the whole process of resolving the issue of supply routes in such trouble at this point? It just seems like it’s been many weeks since NATO, and there was indications before that.
MR. CARNEY: Well, I appreciate the question. Most of the technical arrangements have been worked out, but there are still several issues outstanding. We believe that all can be resolved, and we remain ready to conclude this agreement as soon as Pakistan is ready.
So I think they’ve been working on this. We saw it as the right move to withdraw the -- those technical consultations have been completed largely, and so it was determined that they could return home. We are ready to send officials back to Islamabad when the Pakistani government is ready to conclude the agreement. And it certainly remains our goal to complete an agreement as soon as possible, and I would note that the Pakistani government has said the same thing.
Q Secretary Panetta said we’re reaching the limits on our patience. I mean, hadn’t we already reached the limits of our patience?
MR. CARNEY: Our relationship with Pakistan, as you know, remains both extremely important and extremely complicated. Because it is so important, we devote a lot of time and effort to working on that relationship and discussing all the key issues that are involved in that relationship, and this is one of them.
Q May I follow up on Pakistan?
MR. CARNEY: Sure.
Q The Pentagon says that they’ve been there for about six weeks and they deserved a rest. I mean, are we withdrawing these negotiators because they were tired?
MR. CARNEY: I think I just addressed this. The technical consultations are largely complete, and we are ready to have the necessary officials return to Islamabad when the Pakistani government is ready to conclude the agreement. We’ve expressed our desire to conclude the agreement. The Pakistani government has said that they want this agreement concluded, and we look forward to that taking place.
Q So what is the holdup? Has Pakistan shut the talks down?
MR. CARNEY: I don’t have any more details for you on it. I think there are still some remaining issues that need to be resolved, but they do not require the kind of technical people that were involved in the GLOC consultations for the past 45 days.
Q Does that mean they don’t need to go back?
MR. CARNEY: Again, we will -- we are prepared to conclude this agreement when the Pakistani government is ready to do so.
Q Two questions, Jay. The first: Commerce Secretary Bryson was hit with the felony -- in California. Has the President expressed his confidence that he can serve with this felony --
MR. CARNEY: Well, you’re asking me to speculate on a legal matter that is in a local jurisdiction, so I won’t. I can tell you that the President is obviously -- he learned about this incident this morning. He is concerned about Secretary Bryson’s health and broadly about the incident. But we are still early days here and learning more about the situation, so I don’t have any more to provide you.
Q On Holder, a couple of leaders have said that -- have expressed their concern with Holder -- first, with the probe into the leaks, and then also with this vote that’s coming up holding him in contempt --
MR. CARNEY: And which folks would those be?
Q Capitol Hill Republicans.
MR. CARNEY: Right.
Q But I’m wondering what you have to say about that. Does the President feel that he’s fit to serve, especially with this contempt --
MR. CARNEY: I think I addressed the contempt issue -- the substantial level of cooperation, the numerous hearings, the thousands of pages of documents, the number of times the Attorney General himself has appeared on Capitol Hill, including four hours last week. And I cited a member -- Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee who described this as "politics." So don’t take my word for it, take his word for it, in terms of what’s behind this. The President has absolute confidence in the Attorney General.
Yes, go ahead.
Q Thank you. Is there a political statement about Shimon Peres being here -- (inaudible.) And will the President have private policy talks with Peres?
MR. CARNEY: I have no meetings to announce to you with regard to that. And in terms of -- the first question was about why he’s here for so long. I think I would refer you to him in his office for that.
Q He’s a guest of the U.S. government, right?
MR. CARNEY: Well, if I have more details on that I’ll get them to you.
Michael Cogdill. Yes. Greenville, South Carolina -- also parts of Ashville, North Carolina. Yes, sir. (Laughter.)
Q You took notes, didn’t you?
Q Robert Reich, Jay, has called the rural initiative a "policy miniature" -- I believe is what his words were. How concerned are you that that particular economist isn’t in love with it?
MR. CARNEY: Well, we don’t develop policies so that economists fall in love with them. We develop policies because we think they’re the right actions to take for the issues they’re meant to address. I wasn’t aware of that particular comment. The President believes that the actions that he has taken, the actions that he’s proposing, are the ones that will help our economy continue to recover -- different sectors of our economy to continue to recover -- will result in greater growth an greater job creation.
Again, we are continuing to emerge from an economic crisis, the likes of which none of us in this room have ever experienced before. And the fact is that 4.3 million jobs have been created over the last 27 months and it is a measure of how severe the recession was that that is not nearly enough. And that’s why we need to take further action to help the economy grow and help it create jobs.
Thanks very much you all.
2:19 P.M. EDT
February 9, 2016
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