Press Briefing

June 18, 2014 | 1:02:11 | Public Domain

White House Press Briefings are conducted most weekdays from the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room in the West Wing.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 6/18/2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:20 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Now, that is some good rock and roll.  (Laughter.)  As if you didn’t know.  Well, thank you for that.  That was pretty awesome, a Guided by Voices introduction.  I appreciate that.

Let me say -- I got a few things at the top of this, my last briefing from the podium.  First is a bit of official business.  Today, the President hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire to celebrate a nation of makers and help empower America’s students and entrepreneurs to invent the future.  America has always been a nation of tinkerers, inventors and entrepreneurs.  The President believes that the rise of the maker movement represents a huge opportunity for the United States.

Nationwide, new tools for democratized production are boosting innovation and entrepreneurship in manufacturing in the same way that the Internet and cloud computing have lowered the barriers to entry for digital startups, creating the foundation for new products and processes that can help to revitalize American manufacturing.

The White House Maker Faire features makers, innovators and entrepreneurs of all ages who are using cutting-edge tools such as 3D printers, laser cutters and easy-to-use design software to bring their ideas to life.  Some of these may very well create industries and jobs of the future.  As part of this Year of Action and this week’s focus on efforts that will expand opportunity by spurring manufacturing, innovation and entrepreneurship, the President also announced new steps the administration and its partners are taking to increase the ability of more Americans, young and old, to have access to these tools and techniques. 

That’s my official topper.

Then, I wanted to mention that some of you may remember last week I came out with an Oakland A’s hat and it wasn’t really an Oakland A’s hat.  It was the A’s hat that my son’s team wore when they won the championship in their Little League, their baseball league.  Well, on Saturday, my daughter’s team -- which was visited by the President, and after that visit went on a substantial run of wins -- won its championship.  And while I don’t have a Royals hat, although I’m trusting that Josh Earnest will bring one as a KC Royals fan, I wanted to say thank you to the Northwest Little League Triple A champions, the Kansas City Royals.  I know the President was glad to hear yesterday that they had won their championship.  And for any of you with more than one child, you know you love them all equally.  (Laughter.)

So finally, I just want to say thank you to all of you here.  This has been an extraordinary experience.  And I have loved every minute of every day, even the many minutes of many days I’ve spent in this room, as I think most of you now understand and believe.  It’s always a pleasure no matter how hard it can get in here, how hot it can sometimes be and contentious it sometimes is. 

The President, to many of us, said that of the jobs that we have here in the White House, that most of us will never be in a position to do more good for more people as we are in right now, and we should take advantage of it.  And that is something that I think we all here take to heart.  And I don’t ever expect to be in a position again to be a part of something that has at least the potential to do more good for more people, and that has been a very special thing, indeed.

I loved my years as a reporter, but as you better than anyone else understand, reporting sometimes can be an autonomous exercise.  It’s your story, it’s your byline.  What was so different about this experience for me is that it was all about a team effort and all about a goal that had nothing to do with any individual, not even the President.  And that’s been extraordinarily gratifying to be a part of.

What I won’t do -- although if provoked, I will later -- is go through a list of all the things, the very many good things that have been accomplished by this President, this administration in my time here that I believe represent doing a lot of good for a lot of people in this country and around the world.  But I think that record is a good one and one I’m proud of. 

I guess with that, I’ll go to questions.  At the end, I’d like to opportunity to say thanks to my colleagues. 

You know what, I’m going to do that now, because I have a feeling it could get lost a little bit.  First of all, to the President and the Vice President, the First Lady and Dr. Biden, my deep thanks for this opportunity.  The Vice President took a chance on me.  Two years later, the President took a chance on me.  And I hope I didn’t give either of them any regrets.  The Chiefs of Staff that I served -- Denis McDonough, Jack Lew, Bill Daley, Rahm Emanuel, Valerie Jarrett and Pete Rouse; David Plouffe -- a key advisor, and friend and mentor; Dan Pfieffer, Jen Palmieri, Alyssa Mastromonaco, Nancy-Ann DeParle, Rob Nabors, Kathy Ruemmler, Amy Brundage, Jen Psaki, Katie Beirne Fallon, Anita, Danielle, Tom, Susan -- just the list goes on, Tony Blinken.  These are extraordinary people.  Ron Klain, Ben Rhodes, Jeff Tiller, Marissa Hopkins, Howli Ledbetter.  All superb individuals with whom I’ve had a great privilege to serve and have some good times with.  I thank them all.

Marvin and Pete, I think I probably owe you some money, but thank you as well.  And everyone else here -- I know I've forgotten a lot.  The Uniformed and Presidential Protective Division Secret Service agents are extraordinary people who serve their country and the President and others so well.  The folks who work in this building and who work on Air Force One, I'd like to thank them.

And then finally, I'd like to thank you.  I think some of you may remember Ben Feller, who was sitting in that chair, asked me on my first day as my first question about how I viewed this job.  And I said, first of all, we all are here to serve the President and the country.  We work for him.  But the press secretary is in a unique position within a White House, and not just because I'm a former journalist -- because I think every press secretary understood this and understands it -- we work to promote what the President is doing and the message he’s trying to convey to the American people, but I also work with the press to try to help you do your jobs, to help you cover the White House, cover the administration, and report on what we're doing here.  And that is what I've tried to do.  And you will be the judge of my success, at least in part.

Finally, I want to say thanks to my deputy, Josh, soon-to-be White House Press Secretary.  No one has been more ready to do this.  I want to say thanks to Eric and Shawn.  You guys are in good hands with them. 

Any questions?

Q    Thanks, Jay.  On behalf of my colleagues, congratulations on making it to your last briefing, and I wish you the best of luck in post-White House endeavors.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you.

Q    If we can get to Iraq.  The President is meeting with lawmakers here this afternoon.  Is he going to be in a position to tell those lawmakers his decisions?  And if he’s not in that position, how much longer can he afford to wait to provide the Iraqis with assistance given what officials here have said is the urgency and the gravity of that situation?

MR. CARNEY:  First of all, the President, as you noted, will meet today at 3:00 p.m. with Senate Majority Leader Reid, Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Speaker Boehner, and Democratic Leader Pelosi at the White House as part of his ongoing consultations with congressional leadership on foreign policy issues, including here obviously the situation in Iraq as part of our ongoing consultations with Congress on this issue.

When it comes to the options that the President is considering, first of all, I want to make clear the President has ruled out only sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.  Ultimately, the solution that is needed is an Iraqi one, and any U.S. action, including any possible military action, would be in support of a strategy to build the capacity of the Iraqis to effectively and sustainably counter the threat posed by extremists. 

We have been clear about the elements that we are reviewing. First, how to most effectively deal with the urgent and imminent threat from ISIL; how to build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to fight this threat in both the short and long term; and how to encourage Iraq’s leaders to put aside their differences and to facilitate non-sectarian cooperative governance. 

Military action is a component of the options the President is considering.  But to reiterate what we have been saying, this is not primarily a military challenge.  Iraq needs help to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraq security forces, but there is no military solution that will sustainably solve Iraq’s problems.  And any consideration of military action must be informed by the situation on the ground and the objectives to be obtained, as well as the consequences of its use. 

So the meeting today will be part of a process of consultation with Congress.  The President obviously will inform him of some of -- inform the leaders of his thinking on some of these issues, but we'll also want to hear about their thinking.  We, here in Washington, obviously -- and this includes the leaders who will be visiting -- have spent a lot of time over the past decade thinking about and understanding Iraq and the complexities there.  So the President looks forward to having this meeting.

Q    It sounds like you’re saying he has not made any decisions, and so I'm wondering do those decisions get harder, though -- does that situation on the ground get harder the longer it takes for the U.S. to provide some type of assistance?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would say a couple of things.  The right way to go about this is to assess -- is to develop an approach that is inclusive of the three elements I just mentioned.  It cannot just be about what direct action we may or may not take.  And it also has to be one that keeps in mind what our objectives are.  The ultimate objective here is to protect the national security interests of the United States, to prevent portions of Iraq, portions of the region from becoming a safe haven for ISIL -- extremists who may ultimately pose a threat to the United States or to our interests abroad and our allies. 

And that is the lens through which the President approaches these matters and these decisions, and that obviously especially includes any contemplation of direct action. 

Ultimately, Iraq has to take responsibility for its own security.  We in this country spent more than eight years, nine years, and spent a lot in both blood and treasure in an effort to give Iraq the opportunity to move forward democratically as a sovereign nation, and we are still obviously very much in support of Iraq and the Iraqi government.  But ultimately, they have to make some key political decisions about governing in a non-sectarian way and an inclusive way, because only that will create the kind of stability that Iraq needs to move forward and protect its sovereignty.

Q    I know the President has ruled out putting combat troops on the ground in Afghanistan [sic], but he has notified Congress that up to 275 American forces are going to -- I’m sorry, going to Iraq.  Officials have said that he is considering Special Forces to do training missions there.  What does that say about his willingness to put Americans on the ground in a deteriorating security situation even if they are not there specifically for combat?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, we have had -- certainly prior to this circumstance -- many situations in which military personnel have been used and their numbers reinforced when it became necessary to protect embassy personnel.  And as you know, the decision over the weekend to send a number of teams totaling approximately 170 U.S. personnel to Baghdad from within the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility is about providing security assistance for embassy personnel inside Iraq.

They will engage in efforts to temporarily relocate some of our staff from the embassy to U.S. consulates in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. 

Now, there have been a number of times when we have filed similar war power resolution letters when we have needed to augment existing security at our embassies, and this is consistent with that.  The military has also moved approximately 100 personnel into the region to provide airfield management security and logistic support if required.  But we are not -- that is a very discreet and distinct mission.   We are not, as the President has made clear, contemplating a return of U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.

Q    But you are putting Americans into a country that has a crumbling security situation, are you not?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, again, for this absolutely important mission, which is to ensure the security of our personnel who are there -- and we have obviously, although we have reduced the number of personnel and have relocated and are relocating the ones that I mentioned, we do have a number of Americans there, and it’s the right thing to do to make sure we have the personnel necessary there to provide them the security they need.


Q    Jay, congratulations and good luck.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you.  Is that it?  (Laughter.) 

Q    Is the President leaning one way or another on airstrikes?

MR. CARNEY:  If you read the news today you might be confused, and I think that that just reflects that the fact is the President is assessing the options available, and he is approaching this with the three objectives that I mentioned in mind.  And the one that involves contemplating direct action is part of the whole, the three objectives.  Ultimately, we can’t be in a situation where we are -- the United States and our military forces are the sole guarantor of stability in Iraq.  And I dare say that is a view held by a vast majority of people around the country and here in Washington.

What we can do is engage in an effort to make clear to the Iraqi government and leaders in Iraq that it is absolutely necessary for them, for their own medium- and long-term security and the cohesion of their country, to take steps to govern not in a sectarian way, but in a non-sectarian way, in an inclusive way, and to make clear that that is their objective.  And one of the reasons why we have seen the instability in portions of the country and the ability of ISIL personnel to make the gains that they have is because of the failures of the Iraqi government to govern in an inclusive way and to make it clear to all sectors of society in Iraq that the government represents and defends all of them.  And it is essential that the Iraqi leadership take steps to repair that situation.  That is an important element in our approach to Iraq right now.

Any action that he might contemplate when it comes to direct military -- the use of military force would be to deal with the immediate and medium-term threat posed by ISIL, and to make sure that our first and foremost objective in the region -- which is to deny extremists a safe haven is pursued and achieved -- those are the -- that’s the clear-eyed approach the President has when it comes to what our objectives are in Iraq.

Q    Can you give us a sense of a timetable on when that decision will be made?

MR. CARNEY:  I would not be able to do that for you.  I think that it is absolutely appropriate for the President to continue to both consult with Congress and to move forward, and when he has any announcements to make, he’ll make them.

Q    Just one last question.  Sunni militants attacked the largest oil refinery in Iraq today.  Is the White House concerned about oil disruptions?  And as Jason Furman referred to yesterday, are you considering tapping the SPR to deal with those disruptions?

MR. CARNEY:  I think there was some inaccurate reporting about what Jason said.  As you said, I don’t comment on that specifically except to say that we monitor the situation, we continue to monitor the situation.  When it comes to the question about concern over the price of oil and any effect that the circumstances in Iraq might have on that, we are monitoring continuously the global oil supply and the demand situation.  And my understanding is that at this point we have not seen major disruptions in oil supplies in Iraq. 

On the refinery that you mentioned, my understanding is that we have not seen, as I said, major disruptions in oil supplies from Iraq.  And the refinery itself produces for domestic Iraqi consumption and had stopped production already several days ago.  But this is obviously something that we monitor regularly, both localized in Iraq and any effect or impact on global supply. 

Q    Did markets misinterpret what Jason said about the SPR?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to comment on markets.


Q    So the Iraqis at least twice now have asked for air strikes.  Obviously, the administration doesn’t feel like now is the time; they feel it’s the time.  So why doesn’t the President feel like now is the time to do something like that?

  MR. CARNEY:  Michelle, I think that it’s important, again, to look at the approach the President is taking here and understand that it is not -- the options that he is considering and the approach that he is pursuing is not one that is delineated solely by questions around the potential use of direct military action.

The only thing the President has ruled out -- and I want to be clear here -- is sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.  But he continues to consider other options.  And obviously, work is being done that will help us see with more clarity what the options available to the President are as part of a cohesive strategy that includes working with the Iraqis and urging them to take action to demonstrate to all of the people of Iraq that the government is representing all of them, and that the security forces are engaged in an effort to fight a common threat to all Iraqis -- which is what ISIL represents.

ISIL does not have the interest of any Iraqis at heart.  It is a brutal, extremist organization that seeks to -- as we have seen in recent days -- capitalize on instability to terrorize the residents of Iraq and elsewhere for its own ideological purposes, again, that have no shared objectives with any of the citizens of Iraq.  And I think that the government, in our view, needs to move forward in a way that recognizes that there’s a shared interest in all of Iraq’s peoples joining together in the effort to combat the threat posed by ISIL.

Q    So it sounds like what you’re saying is you’re waiting for the Iraqis to show something or some kind of ability, either politically or militarily.  What does the administration think of their ability to hold Baghdad?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that -- I know that others don’t let the lack of expertise get in their way when they comment on the situation on the ground and military capacities of Iraq security forces or of ISIL forces.  So I would urge you to consult true experts on that. 

We are looking at this through the lens of our national security interests.  And again, the President has not ruled out anything, except for sending U.S. combat troops into Iraq.  And he has also maintained the position that the United States retains the right to act in defense of our national security interests when the Commander-in-Chief views that as necessary, and he retains that right in this case and in all cases.

But again, taking direct military action by the United States will not solve Iraq’s challenges, certainly not alone.

Let me move up and back as I -- why should I change now.  Cheryl.

Q    Thank you, Jay.  And congratulations.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks.

Q    Just so you won’t miss us, does the administration support a repatriation tax holiday to pay for the depleted Highway Trust Fund? 

MR. CARNEY:  Cheryl, I could always count on you in changing the subject, and I appreciate that.  (Laughter.)

The President does not support and has never supported a voluntary repatriation holiday because it would give large tax breaks to a very small number of companies that have most aggressively shifted profits and, in many cases, jobs overseas.  In 2004, just 15 firms got more than 50 percent of the benefits, with tax breaks worth billions of dollars on average.  The JCT -- as you know, Cheryl, probably better than anyone in this room -- predicts that a repeat of the 2004 repatriation holiday would cost nearly $100 billion over 10 years.

The President’s view is -- I mean, he’s put forward a plan for paying for the kind of infrastructure investments that we need, and he believes that that’s the right plan.


Q    Congratulations, Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  We can stipulate that, if you guys want to.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I kind of wanted to follow up on what I asked you last week, which was both whether you guys feel like if you were to move ahead with any type of military strike, if you feel like the existing authorities kind of are there under maybe the authorization to go into Iraq the first time, under a different authority.  Some Senate Democrats have said that they think that you do need to go back to Congress.  And even if you do think that you do have that authority, whether the President feels in Syria that the nation would be stronger if he consulted Congress on this issue.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, he is consulting Congress, as you know, and we’ve discussed already.  When it comes to the AUMF that you mentioned, the Iraq AUMF, the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the administration supports the repeal of the Iraq AUMF since it no longer is used for any U.S. government activities.  Now, we understand that some in Congress are considering legislation related to the Iraq AUMF, and we look forward to working with them.

I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals about action the President might take since, as we discussed earlier, he is still reviewing his options when it comes to direct action.  So I think I would say we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, if we get there.


Q    Thanks, Jay.  In light of the performance or the lack of performance of the Iraqi Armed Forces, is the President taking a fresh look at readiness reports coming out of Afghanistan?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think that the two countries are obviously different.  And we look at assessments of readiness in Iraq and Afghanistan in the context of the situation in each country.  We obviously have invested a lot of resources and paid a heavy price in both countries as part of our effort to allow governments in those countries selected by their people to secure their nations and produce for their people a better future. 

We have important relationships in both nations that include security assistance.  Obviously, Afghanistan we still have many troops there in an advise-and-assist mission at this time.  But I think it is important to note that we as a country engage in an effort to help stand up Iraqi security forces and train them and support them.  We continue in that effort.  We have missions even to this day absent a presence of U.S. troops in Iraq that still assist in the training and supporting of Iraqi security forces.  But ultimately, the challenges that we have seen reflected in the inability of those security forces to control portions of the country reflect the failure of the government to govern effectively in a cohesive and inclusive, non-sectarian way. 

And we can take steps to help deal with -- help the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government deal with the immediate threat posed by extremist groups like ISIL.  But in the medium and long term, it absolutely has to be Iraqi leaders who take the steps necessary to ensure that the security forces are up to the task and will provide security for the whole country and for all citizens of that country and all regions of the country.

Q    So no new look at the Afghan approach?  This isn’t a cautionary tale for the effort --

MR. CARNEY:  I think that we are constantly -- our teams are evaluating the effort that continues to improve the capacities of the ANSF, and that effort will continue.  We obviously have a circumstance in Iraq now that requires assisting Iraq in efforts to deal with the immediate threat posed by extremists and assisting them as they hopefully make the choices necessary to succeed in the medium and long term in dealing with the challenges they face.


Q    Jay, getting back to this question of authorization -- when the President was considering airstrikes against Syria, he made the decision that he would first go to Congress to get authorization for an attack on Syria.  Is he considering anything similar regarding Iraq?  Does he believe that he would need or would prefer to have congressional authorization before launching airstrikes on Iraq?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals about decisions that the President may or may not make with regards to the use of U.S. military force in Iraq.  I would note at least for the sake of clarity, the differences you would see in those circumstances, where in this case, as someone noted in an earlier question, the sovereign government of Iraq has requested assistance.  But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate --

Q    Does that make a significant difference?

MR. CARNEY:  Beyond that, I’m not going to -- well, I think it certainly is a distinction and difference worth noting.  I’m not going to get into, again, hypotheticals about decisions the President has not yet made.

Q    Just to -- why would that make a difference?  I understand on many levels why it would make a difference, but in terms of congressional authorization?  Because Congress would be authorizing the use of military force, not whether or not the other government was inviting us, right?  It’s a question of whether or not the President has that authority now.  I’m just asking if the White House believes he has the authority.

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I know.  And that question was asked earlier, and I’m not going to speculate about an issue that has not come to pass.

Q    Okay.  And I’m sure you’ve had a chance to -- or you’ve seen this op-ed piece that former Vice President Dick Cheney has written in the Wall Street Journal and has a rather critical tone to it, towards the White House.  He says, “Rarely has a U.S. President been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” talking about the situation in Iraq and in the Middle East generally. 

MR. CARNEY:  Which President was he talking about?  (Laughter.)

Q    I believe he was talking about President Obama.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, it’s obviously always good to hear from former Vice President Cheney.  You and I each know him reasonably well.  I think many others have said that it’s pretty clear that President Obama and our team here have distinctly different views on Iraq from the team that led the United States to invade Iraq back in 2003.  So he’s entitled to his opinion.

Q    Jay, can I ask you in two specifics of what he says, though?  On one he says that terrorists, the group ISIS is taking over more territory and resources than any terrorist group before in history, and the President goes out golfing; that he seems blithely unaware or indifferent to the fact the insurgent al Qaeda threat poses a clear and present danger to the United States.  So your reaction to the Vice President saying that the President is out golfing when he should be paying attention to this, and he seems unaware or unconcerned?

MR. CARNEY:  I think it’s pretty clear the President has been paying close attention to this and been engaging regularly with his national security team.  It’s also clear that the President is being very deliberate about decisions surrounding the question of the use of American military force.  And his belief is that we should always be very deliberate in that kind of decision-making process and that we should very carefully weigh the consequences, both desired and undesired, that can come from the use of U.S. military force, and we should have a very clear focus in mind about what our national security objectives are and what we, the United States, can achieve through military force as opposed to what, in this case, the sovereign nation of Iraq and its security forces can and must achieve -- unless the proposition is, as some in the past have suggested, the United States should have had occupied Iraq in perpetuity.  That's simply not the President’s view -- President Obama’s view.


Q    Jay, thanks.  Based on some of the latest reporting that I have seen, the rebel forces are about 40 miles north of Baghdad.  Is that consistent with your understanding?  And I know you don't want to give a specific timeline, but can we still expect the President to make a final determination in a matter of days as opposed to weeks given that?

MR. CARNEY:  There is a lot of work that is ongoing at the direction of the President around the situation in Iraq.  He is continuing to consider options consistent with the ongoing war, and he has not ruled out any options beyond deploying U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.  So beyond that, I'm not going to get into timetables, except to say that a lot of work is going on already around the general proposition that I laid out in the beginning of this briefing and the three objectives we have that have to govern an approach to Iraq that has anything but the  absolute short term in mind.

So when it comes to assessments of what’s happening on the ground, again, as I said earlier, I will refrain where others have not and not pretend to be an expert on the situation on the ground.  I would refer you to those who are.

Q    The President has said that any action taken by the U.S. would depend upon Nouri al-Maliki creating a more inclusive government.  Have you seen any steps that he has taken that you can point to to suggest that he’s actually done that?  Or is he hunkering down as other people have said?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, it is absolutely I think self-evident that the future of a nation like Iraq with its diverse population is dependent upon the willingness of its leaders to govern inclusively -- at least the cohesion of the nation is dependent upon that.  And that has been a proposition that we have been discussing with Iraq’s leaders for a long time, and it remains true today.  And there’s no question that not enough has been done by the government, including the Prime Minister, to govern inclusively and that that has contributed to the situation and the crisis that we have today in Iraq.

And this is a democratically elected government.  It is a country that has just undergone another election and which is in the process of the formation of a new government.  And what is obviously clear is that Iraq and the people of Iraq choose their leaders, and we can only be clear that all of Iraq’s leaders must -- about what they must do to unify the country and the people and effectively confront this threat.

I would point out when it comes to the steps the President can take or might consider, they are part of a whole package.  What is also true is that our primary objective is to not permit extremist groups like ISIL from establishing a safe haven.  And the surest way to achieve that is for the government of Iraq to govern in a way that is inclusive, and that by being inclusive more effectively establishes security and stability throughout the country.

Q    If not enough has been done, as you say, then should Maliki step down?

MR. CARNEY:  That's not obviously for us to decide.  As I noted earlier, this is a country that has had democratic elections.  There was a recent election that produced results that requires the formation of a coalition government.  That has, at least in recent past, been a process that takes some time.  Given the circumstances, moving expeditiously is obviously a good idea.  But that is something for the Iraqi people to decide, not for the United States or any outside nation to decide.

Regardless of the decision about who is prime minister or what that government looks like, we will make the case that Iraq’s leaders need to proceed in a way that is reflective of the interests of all of Iraq’s citizens and all regions of the country and all parties and religious affiliations.  That is the only way for a nation like Iraq to succeed ultimately in the medium and long term.

Q    And just one more on a completely different topic.  Does the President have a reaction to the fact that the Redskins trademark was cancelled today?

MR. CARNEY:  I haven't spoken to the President about that news, but I would note that last October, in an interview with the Associated Press, he was asked about the issue of the team name and said, “If I were the owner of the team and I knew that there was a name of my team, even if it had a storied history, that was offending a sizable group of people, I'd think about changing it.”  So that's the President’s view.  I have no new view of his to provide to you.

The decision today was made by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.  I think maybe Cheryl knew that existed prior to this, but I bet most of you didn’t.  (Laughter.)  And it’s an independent administrative tribunal within the Patent and Trademark Office.  The board is authorized to determine a party’s right to register a trademark with the federal government, or if the party already owns a registration, its right to maintain it.  The board is not authorized to determine whether a party has the right to use a trademark, just whether it has the right to register it.

So for more on this, I would encourage you to contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office.


Q    Jay, can you describe the limits of the White House willingness to cooperate with Iran dealing with the crisis in Iraq?

MR. CARNEY:  I can tell you that we are open to engaging the Iranians, just as we are engaging other regional players on the threat posed by ISIL in Iraq.  As you know, the issue did come up briefly between Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and Iran on the margins of the P5-plus-1 in Vienna on Monday.  There may be future discussions at lower levels, Major, though we do not expect the issue to be raised again during this round of P5-plus-1 nuclear discussions in Vienna.  And to be clear, any discussion about Iraq is separate and will be separate from ongoing nuclear talks. 

On the broader question, in any possible conversations with Iran we would encourage the Islamic Republic of Iran to act in a responsible, non-sectarian way, and to encourage the government or Iraq and all Iraqi leaders to do the same.  Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected, and the government of Iraq must focus now on strengthening its internal political and security institutions in a non-sectarian way.  And the solution to Iraq’s security challenge does not involve militias, but the strengthening of the Iraqi forces to combat threats.

Any engagements we have with the Iranians will not include discussion of military coordination or strategic determination about Iraq’s future over the heads of the Iraqi people.

Q    Do you want the Iranian government to rescind its general call for Shiite militias to protect religious shrines in Iraq?

MR. CARNEY:  I would say that ISIL is clearly a threat, a common threat to the entire region, including Iran, but Iraq will only successfully overcome this threat by governing in a non-sectarian manner, building and investing in the capacity of Iraq’s security forces and addressing the legitimate concerns of Iraq’s Sunni, Kurd and Shia communities.  Turning to Iran is not going to accomplish these important steps and it won't solve Iraq’s problems. 

Iraq’s leaders need to make decisions that reinforce the idea for all of Iraq’s citizens that the government represents all of them and defends all of them.  And governing in a sectarian way or reinforcing a perception that the central government is pursuing sectarian interests is not a recipe for success when it comes to dealing with the common threat posed by ISIL.

Q    As the process to form this coalition government plays itself out after the most recent election, is Nouri al-Maliki the optimal leader of that process?  Would there not be a better chance of it succeeding if he and those closest to him were open to a possible alternative?  And would the United States be supportive of an alternative?

MR. CARNEY:  We don't choose Iraq’s leaders.  We encourage all of the leaders of Iraq, in this government and in the future government that has to be formed as a result of the recent elections, to pursue non-sectarian governance.  That is the way that Iraq can successfully maintain its security --

Q    Considering his history, is Maliki the optimal figure to do that?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, it's not for us to make that decision on behalf of the Iraqi people.  

Q    Do we have an opinion?

MR. CARNEY:  The Iraqi people will have to decide the makeup of the next coalition government and who is the prime minister. Whether it's the current prime minister or another leader, we will aggressively attempt to impress upon that leader the absolute necessity of rejecting sectarian governance, rejecting an approach to Iraq’s security that has sectarian goals in mind, but rather governing and pursuing security in an inclusive, non-sectarian way. 

That’s the only way the divisions within Iraq are managed and healed in a manner that will allow for Iraq to prosper in the future.  That has always been the case.  And we have, as a country, expended a lot of our most precious resources in an effort to give Iraq the opportunity to govern itself as a sovereign nation and a democratic nation, and to take responsibility for the security of the nation.  We continue to have an important assistance relationship with Iraq, and we always in a circumstance like this continue to be focused on our national security interests and potential threats against the United States, and our people and our allies.

But ultimately, the Iraqi people have to decide their future.  We’re there as a partner and a friend, but they have to decide.

Q    Last question.  It’s clear the President would like many questions answered; among them are these:  Can you give me reliable, target information on the ground?  And the absence of that is in part related to the lack of U.S. eyeballs on the ground to provide not only the target but the assessment of what would be successful or not successful.  Other things you would like to have answered is an assessment of the fighting will and capacity of those security forces in and around Baghdad.  Does the President’s declaration that there will be no combat forces prevent him from sending those who might be best skilled at answering those questions to Iraq to find out those answers to give him better options?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has been clear, as I have again today, that that is not an option he is considering.  We are not sending U.S. troops back into combat in Iraq.  But that’s the only option he’s ruled out.  We are obviously assessing a variety of different options.  We’re pursuing an approach that has as only one component the contemplation of direct action we could take.  The questions you asked at the beginning about fully understanding the objectives that could be achieved by direct action is absolutely appropriate.

But as I mentioned earlier, a whole lot of work is being done as part of the President’s approach to this challenge.  And when he has any decisions to announce, he’ll announce them.  And in the meantime, I think you can be sure that we are taking an approach to Iraq that is governed by our view of what not only we can do to assist Iraq, but what Iraq must do to assist itself.

Q    Just to make sure I understand, sending people to try to answer those questions would constitute sending combat forces?

MR. CARNEY:  No -- I’m not going to get into hypotheticals about how we make assessments about the situation on the ground.  What I have made clear is that the President is ruling out sending U.S. troops back into combat.  We obviously have a lot of efforts underway that allow us to assess the situation, allow the President and his team to assess options.


Q    Jay, Congratulations.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks.

Q    Ahead of this important meeting at three o’clock with congressional leaders, some of the Republican leaders are saying ahead of that that they think the worst option would be for there to be no U.S. action.  But from some of your earlier comments, you seem to suggest that, as the President once delivered here, that if he has a decision to announce, he’ll announce it.  Does that suggest that one option on the table is no U.S. military action?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think it’s -- any time you say, as the President has on many occasions, that he’s not ruling out, and never does, the use of military force in a circumstance like this, that’s not ruling in or saying there is a certain use of military force. 

Q    I just want to be clear.  So it’s not a foregone conclusion that there will be U.S. military action.  He may decide that the Iraqis do not have a strategy, and he might not feel like using U.S. military force makes sense.  Is that right?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the President will make decisions based on his view of what’s in the best interest of the United States and our national security.  We obviously have, as the President said last Friday, a keen interest in the region because of the potential threat that a safe haven for an extremist group like ISIL could pose to the United States.  That is why the President is considering a variety of options.  That’s part of an approach, again, that is not limited to -- although it gets the most attention -- not limited to this consideration.

Q    When you talk about ISIL and their influence, one thing that former Vice President Cheney mentioned in that op-ed that was talked about before is the President’s recent New Yorker interview where he talked about how there’s a big difference between al Qaeda central, bin Laden having a network that’s trying to launch attacks against U.S. homeland.  And then you’ve got these splinter groups like an ISIL, or ISIS as some call it, that might not be able to launch terror attacks.  But now people are saying, well, wait a second, maybe they can take over an Islamic state and turn it into an Islamic state and launch attacks. 

And the President said in that interview with the New Yorker, “If a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”  Did the President misjudge the influence of some of these al Qaeda offshoots that maybe they could launch terror attacks against the U.S.?

MR. CARNEY:  The President has been very clear, as have the senior members of his national security team, that our principal concern has been for some time those al Qaeda affiliates that have demonstrated that they pose, at least potentially, the most direct threat to the United States or people in our interest.  That would obviously include AQAP, and it could potentially include ISIL.

And so we have been very focused on these regional affiliates and the threat that they pose as core al Qaeda has been diminished.  It was certainly the right thing to do to diminish core al Qaeda, to go after the central governing authority and decision-makers who perpetrated a catastrophic attack against the United States on September 11th, 2001.  I hope senior members of the previous administration would agree with that and the objective that was pursued and has in substantial measure been achieved. 

That doesn’t mean that we don’t oppose other substantial threats.  The President and every member of his national security team has been very clear about that.  And we have -- as you have seen, as a nation -- in our collaborative relationships with other nations as well as acting on our own -- taken action where we can mitigate the threat posed by extremist groups to the United States.  And we’ll continue to do that.

Q    And to deal with this threat, you were telling Major how important it is to press Prime Minister Maliki to reform.  If that’s the case, why did the President have Vice President Biden call Maliki last week?  Why hasn’t the President called Maliki directly to make this case? 

MR. CARNEY:  I think the President’s views are very clear.  The President has had conversations with Prime Minister Maliki in the past that include this very issue.

Q    When was the last time they spoke?

MR. CARNEY:  The Vice President of the United States has obviously keen expertise and very deep relationships in Iraq among all of the leaders there.  In the two years that I served as his communications director, I believe we went there seven times.  And he has certainly been there often since then.  And it’s entirely appropriate that the Vice President of the United States speak directly with leaders in Iraq, as he has consistently for so many years.

Q    One other topic before you go.  What happened to Lois Lerner’s e-mails?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, I would refer you to the IRS, and they’ve answered this question.  They can answer it again.

Q    Given the fact that they were requested I think about 10 months ago and it was just Friday when Congress was informed that they’ve apparently been missing, will the White House pledge at least to guarantee that you will work to find them -- since previous officials at the IRS have testified to Congress under oath that there’s backups of these e-mails?  So do you think -- you’ve previously said you’ll cooperate with legitimate oversight.  Is it legitimate to find these e-mails?

MR. CARNEY:  As the IRS has said, Ed, they are producing 67,000 e-mails sent or received from Lois Lerner.  This is part of their production of 750,000 pages of documents to Congress.  As the IRS said, IT professionals worked to restore Lerner’s hard drive but were unable to do so.  Nonetheless, the IRS has or will produce 24,000 Lerner e-mails from this 2009-2011 time period largely from the files of the other 82 individuals.  So I think that answers your question that they are engaging in an effort to find e-mails in the absence of being able to restore the hard drive.

Q    So the White House will make sure that as many as possible that can be recovered will be recovered?

MR. CARNEY:  The IRS obviously is taking action that I just described to you to supply, in addition to the 750,000 pages of documents to Congress they’ve already supplied, additional e-mails as they can be recovered. 

Chairman Camp, as you know, requested e-mails to and from the White House.  We were asked if we would produce them; we did, in fact, do a search for all communications between Lois Lerner and any person within the Executive Office of the President for this period.  We found zero e-mails -- sorry to disappoint -- between Lois Lerner and anyone within the EOP during this period.  We found three e-mails where a third party e-mailed both Lois Lerner and officials within the EOP.  One was a spam e-mail and two others were from a person seeking tax assistance.  Each of these e-mails has been produced to Congress.

Q    -- were also trying to seek her e-mails with members of Congress and staff on the Hill, I believe, right?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think the IRS is demonstrating that it is undertaking this effort.


Q    Thank you for a hard job well done.  Congratulations.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you, Mara.

Q    A question -- if the primary national security objective of the U.S. is to deny extremists a safe haven, and the most efficient way is for Malaki to form -- govern in a non-sectarian manner, has the President come to any conclusions about whether that is the only way?  In other words, barring those reforms, is there anything that we can do on our own, short of occupying Iraq, to achieve that objective?  I’m not asking what he has decided to do, just whether he thinks it’s even possible.

MR. CARNEY:  There are several levels of hypotheses to that, but I’ll try to tackle it this way.  It is certainly the best way to ensure that an extremist group cannot establish a safe haven in Iraq and this region.  And that is why it is important to be clear about the three pieces, the elements that I talked about:  How to deal with the urgent threat from ISIL; how to help build the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to fight this threat in both the short and long term; and how to encourage Iraq’s leaders to put aside their differences and facilitate non-sectarian cooperative governance.

It is always the case that when it comes to threats to the United States, the American people, our interests and our allies, we and the President, obviously, as Commander-in-Chief, take action as he sees fit.  I think that’s the best way I can answer your question.  But ultimately, setting aside assistance we are providing and other assistance we might provide in the effort to deal with the urgent threat posed by ISIL, Iraq’s leaders need to take the steps that we’ve discussed.  And that is the surest and best way -- as it has ever been -- short of a permanent occupation by the United States, short of that -- of assuring that Iraq is a sovereign, secure nation that doesn’t provide a safe haven to these extremist groups.

Q    But two of those three goals that you mentioned -- building the capacity of the Iraqi military and facilitating non-sectarian governance -- those were our goals before 2011, before we left.  We had more leverage then.  Now that we’re gone, how do we achieve those goals when we’re not there and we couldn’t achieve them when we were there?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first of all, we still have a very important and substantial relationship, including an assistance relationship with Iraq.  But I think your question in many ways provides the answer, which is that it has always been and will always be the case that Iraq must take responsibility for its own security, ultimately.  They will have and do have in the United States a partner in that effort, but Iraq is a sovereign nation with a democratically elected government, and they need to act and make decisions at the political level to ensure that we have in that country, for the sake of the Iraqi people, the potential for a better future.

Juliet, then Connie.

Q    Since a couple former Vice Presidents are weighing in on public policy matters, Al Gore wrote today that the President has signaled he is likely to reject the presidential permit for the Keystone pipeline.  Can you share -- has there been any private discussion between the former Vice President and the President that would lead him to this conclusion?

MR. CARNEY:  The President’s position, our position on the pipeline has not changed.  The process that is housed at the State Department continues.  And I’ve seen that report, but I don’t have any light to shed on it.  The process continues.  It’s being run by the State Department in keeping with past practice of administrations of both parties. 


Q    Thank you.  Just to wrap up -- are Americans any safer now because of what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan?  And secondly, shall we keep one of the seats warm for you in the press room?  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  I can definitively answer one of those questions.  (Laughter.)  Connie, I think that our men and women in uniform, principally; their families, principally; our civilian Americans who served in harm’s way in those countries provided extraordinary service, and in doing so have made our country safer.

There are, obviously, issues around the decision which then-state senator Obama opposed to invade Iraq that historians will chew over for a long time.  But there is no question and no debate about the extraordinary service provided by our men and women in uniform, and by those who supported them, and that we all benefit from that and we are all grateful for that, from the Commander-in-Chief on down.

But this is not, when it comes to the safety and security of the United States and the threats posed by those who would do us harm, this is an ongoing proposition, and it’s one that the Commander-in-Chief and his successors will always be vigilant about.  And that is why, as we discussed earlier, we keep our eyes on emerging threats even as we deal with the threats that were present when we got here.  And that will continue to be the case, I am very confident, even as I step away from this podium, which I’m about to do.

Q    Thanks, Jay.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you all very much.  (Applause.)

MR. MCDONOUGH:  Jay, before you go, I just wanted to come and say in front of all your close friends here -- on behalf of your team and on behalf of the President, thank you.  I want to say thank you to you.  I want to say thank you to Claire.  I want to say thank you to Hugo.  And I want to say thank you to Della.

We are going to miss you dearly.  You have done unrelenting good work and unrelenting good service for us, and we’re deeply appreciative in how you deal with our partners here in the press. So, Jay, thank you very much.  We’re going to miss you dearly.

MR. CARNEY:  Thanks.  (Applause.)

Thank you all very much.  I’m sure we’ll see each other again.  Take care.

Q    Jay, is this your last day?

MR. CARNEY:  (Laughter.)  Yes.  Oh, no, not at the White House, sorry.  My last briefing.  A couple more days here.

Q    You can take the question.

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll take that question.

Q    So when do you give Josh the launch codes and everything?

MR. CARNEY:  Oh, I couldn’t possibly reveal that.  (Laughter.)  Thank you all.

Q    Jay, I wish you all the best.

MR. CARNEY:  Thank you, sir.  Bye-bye.

2:17 P.M. EDT

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