Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:22 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Good afternoon, everybody. I like the light, social atmosphere in the room today. Let's see if we can keep that going.
Mr. Lederman, I'll give you the first opportunity to keep that going.
Q: Thanks, Josh. The World Health Organization this morning acknowledged kind of dropping the ball on the initial Ebola response and missing signs that they should have caught on to. I'm wondering if that failure on the global level in retrospect hindered some of the initial response here in the United States.
MR. EARNEST: Josh, I haven't seen those reports about the recent WHO comments. What I will tell you is this administration has been focused on this Ebola outbreak since it was first reported back in March. You'll recall that CDC and USAID deployed personnel to West Africa back in the spring. Over the course of the summer, additional resources were moved to that region of the world because this administration had a keen understanding that the best way to protect the American public and to eliminate risk from the Ebola virus to the American public is to stop this outbreak at the source. And that is why you've seen CDC make the largest-ever commitment of resources and personnel to this specific effort, and that was something that was done even before this outbreak has gotten the kind of media attention that it has in the last several weeks.
In addition to that, the President has followed up on that effort by committing significant Department of Defense resources to this effort. By adding the Department of Defense's logistical expertise to the equation, we can leverage greater international confidence in the ongoing response effort. We are pleased to have seen the response from countries and non-governmental organizations around the world who are focusing more time and attention and resources on this effort. However, there is quite a bit more that can be done, and that's why you've seen the President convene a number of telephone calls over the last 48 hours or so with leaders in Japan, across Europe. The President placed a couple of additional phone calls yesterday to try to enlist greater international support for the very serious situation that we see in West Africa right now.
Q: And, Josh, the President's choice to be the point man on running the Ebola response, Ron Klain, is already coming under some criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill who are saying --
MR. EARNEST: That's some shocking development, isn't it?
Q: I know it's not something you ever anticipated.
MR. EARNEST: It's shocking -- like three weeks before an Election Day and Republicans are seeking to score political points. Stop the presses.
Q: Come on, you're bringing us down. You're bringing down the mood. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: I'm trying to keep up mine.
Q: I guess you beat me to the punch, but do you think that they're scoring political points as opposed to there being any legitimate questions about whether it might be smart to have someone with some element of medical or public health expertise as opposed to a kind of a government insider to be running this kind of an operation?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think you're asking a good question, which is what kind of person is appropriate to fill this role. The fact of the matter is, this is much broader than just a medical response. The response that you've seen from the administration is a whole-of-government response to ensure we're leveraging the necessary resources to protect the American public.
So as I mentioned earlier, USAID and the Department of Defense, in addition to CDC, have been involved in responding to the outbreak in West Africa. You've seen the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol play their important role in this effort, which is to monitor our borders and screen passengers from airplanes who are entering the country. There are additional screening measures that the Department of Homeland Security put in place just within the last couple of weeks to make sure that we're protecting the American public. There's an important role to communicate with state and local leaders, including public health officials, to protect the American public.
There is a significant medical component here as well, of course, but it's not solely a medical response. That's why somebody with Mr. Klain's credentials, somebody that has strong management experience both inside government but also in the private sector. He is somebody that has strong relationships with members of Congress and obviously strong relationships with those of us who worked with him here at the White House earlier in the administration.
All of that means that he is the right person for the job, and he is the right person to make sure that we are integrating the interagency response to this significant challenge.
Q: The President last night when we were in the Oval Office seemed to open the door to possibly changing his approach in the future as far as a travel ban goes, saying he was not philosophically opposed to it. I was wondering if you could clarify whether that's something that increasingly is being sought as -- looked at as a viable option and something that's under any kind of active consideration.
MR. EARNEST: Jeff [sic], I would encourage you to take a second look at the President's comments. He did say what you were describing, which is that he is not philosophically opposed to this travel ban. I think that indicated a willingness on the part of the President and other members of his administration to keep an open mind as we evaluate the changing circumstances here to make sure that we are putting in place the kind of tenacious approach that the American people expect from their government.
At this point, however -- and I think the President was clear about this when he discussed it -- at this point, if our core priority is protecting the American public, then we're not going to put in place a travel ban. That's simply because, as the President described, putting in place a travel ban could have a pretty perverse effect on people who are seeking to travel to this country. It would give them an incentive to not be candid, or honest even, about their travel history.
Right now, by leaving those lines of -- leaving that commercial travel open, individuals who are coming to this country are properly screened. This means that if you've spent any time in West Africa, in these three countries in West Africa in the last three weeks, that you have your temperature taken, that your information is collected by CBP officers so that if there's a need to contact you urgently that we know where you are and we know how to do. You're also given important information about Ebola, both so that you can protect yourself but also protect people who are around you.
And that also will enhance the kind of response that we expect that we'll see; that if an individual walks in the door of an emergency room anywhere in the country, holding that piece of paper indicating that they've been advised about the risks that they face from Ebola, that we can also ensure that doctors respond in the appropriate way.
So this reflects the President's commitment to putting the protection of the American public at the top of the priority list when it comes to making decisions about things like a travel ban.
Q: Turning to the Islamic State, General Austin was speaking this morning and said that some of the intense fighting in and around Kobani has allowed the U.S.-led coalition to take out large numbers of Islamic State fighters, bringing them off of the battlefield for other parts of the conflict as well. I'm wondering if the White House feels that there's a tide that's been turned, or is seeing more progress in the fight there.
MR. EARNEST: Well, General Austin would be in the best position to make that assessment. But we have in recent days seen ISIL start to mass its fighters and materiel around Kobani. The reason for that is they are obviously seeking to make an advance into that city and essentially overrun it. At the same time, that has created a rather target-rich environment around Kobani for American and coalition airstrikes -- that when they see clusters of fighters or they see depots of materiel and supplies that are critical to the success of those fighters, it's easier to take them out.
And so you have seen a stepped-up operational tempo in and around Kobani. As General Austin, I believe, said just today, the United States and our coalition partners remain committed to attacking the enemy where they are. And right now they're around Kobani.
Q: Josh, when did the President decide to name Ron Klain? And he's been cool to the idea of naming one of these czars. What prompted him to change his mind?
MR. EARNEST: I don't think I would describe him as "cool" to this idea. When he was asked this question in the Oval Office just last evening, the President indicated that he was pleased with the performance of his team. In fact, I think that he described the work of Lisa Monaco, his top Homeland Security Advisor, as outstanding. I would certainly echo that sentiment.
At the same time, what the President indicated is that Ms. Monaco has significant responsibilities when it comes to other national security priorities as well. And if the President felt like it was important for someone to dedicate 100 percent of their time to coordinating our whole-of-government approach to this Ebola situation, that he would choose someone who could spend 100 percent of their time doing it.
As I mentioned, Ms. Monaco has significant other national security responsibilities, so the President made a decision to augment his team by bringing on Mr. Klain who will focus 100 percent of his time on coordinating this whole-of-government response. Mr. Klain will ultimately, however, report directly to Ms. Monaco and to the National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, in this effort.
But again, this also indicates the administration's tenacious approach to an evolving situation. The President recognized that the response would benefit from having someone who could devote 100 percent of their time to this specific task -- that is coordinating the response -- and somebody like Mr. Klain, who has a strong management track record both inside government and in the private sector, is the right person for the job.
Q: What would have to happen to convince the President to impose a travel ban?
MR. EARNEST: Well, that's a hypothetical question, but it is something that is obviously being discussed quite a bit publicly. It's an option that will continue to be on the table, but it's one that is not being considered right now, principally because the President believes that if we're going to protect the American people, the best way to do that is to ensure that individuals seeking to enter this country are going through the proper channels, and when they do so that they're being properly screened.
Q: Do you think lawmakers are playing politics with this issue by calling for a travel ban?
MR. EARNEST: I would leave it up to lawmakers themselves to decide what's motivating their claims that a travel ban is in the best interest of the American public. The President has taken a careful look at this and was pretty clear about the conclusion that he reached yesterday.
Q: Josh, what does Ron Klain know about Ebola?
MR. EARNEST: Well, the thing that's -- let me restate why this person -- why the President believes it was important to add this person to his team. The President, again, wanted somebody who could serve in a coordinating function to manage the implementation of our whole-of-government approach to this Ebola situation. And so I guess to more directly address your question, what we were looking for is not an Ebola expert, but rather an implementation expert. And that's exactly what Ron Klain is. He is somebody who has extensive experience in the federal government. He's somebody that has extensive management experience when it comes to the private sector.
You'll recall that when he served here at the White House he was responsible for working in the Vice President's office at a time that that office was responsible for implementing the Recovery Act. Now, we've talked a lot about the resilience of the U.S. economy in the last few months, the long track record of continuous private sector job growth. The economic growth in terms of the GDP has been very strong in recent quarters. So I think the results of the Recovery Act as it relates to the economic impact certainly speak for themselves.
Q: And what's his title? Is he a czar?
MR. EARNEST: Well, let me finish because this is important, too. In the context -- because, again, ultimately what we're looking for here is an implementation expert, and when it came to implementing the Recovery Act, that was successful not just in terms of the intended effect that it had on our economy, which was exceedingly beneficial; the Recovery Act itself exceeded expectations in terms of the timeframe in which it was implemented. We're talking about a very complex interagency scenario that involved just about every agency of the federal government.
Q: And Ron Klain has worked on the Recovery Act.
MR. EARNEST: Yes, and it was performed with unprecedented transparency. They were putting out quarterly reports to indicate just how successful -- to indicate exactly what work was being done and how successful it was being implemented. So that is one good example of how Mr. Klain's implementation expertise can be applied in this situation as well.
Q: Is he a czar? Is that his title? What is his title?
MR. EARNEST: His title is he is the Ebola Response Coordinator. I know that there are some Republicans and even some pundits who are describing him as a czar. They're certainly welcome to do that. We describe him as the Ebola Response Coordinator.
Q: And the administration, back in 2009, said that there isn't anybody working for the White House that you would call a czar, so --
MR. EARNEST: And we do not call him a czar. Again, that is what Republicans and some pundits want to call him. I don't know if that is intended as a derogatory term. Maybe it is. Maybe some people mean it that way and some people don't. We describe him as the Ebola response coordinator, and we think that he is exceedingly well suited to the task.
Q: And he's going to report to Lisa Monaco and Susan Rice?
MR. EARNEST: That's correct.
Q: So are they in charge of the Ebola response, or is he going to be in charge of the Ebola response?
MR. EARNEST: Well, we've had the opportunity to discuss this quite a bit over the last couple of days. The fact of the matter is this administration, under the direction of the President, is pursuing a whole-of-government approach to responding to this Ebola situation. That means there are very important areas of responsibility for the Department of Defense in West Africa. USAID and CDC have responsibilities for some of the efforts that are underway in West Africa. Here in this country there are important responsibilities that the CDC has for communicating with health care professionals and with hospitals across the country. DHS has a responsibility for securing the borders.
Each of those agencies is responsible for performing that work, and it's the responsibility of Mr. Klain to coordinate those efforts across agencies to make sure that we are maximizing this whole-of-government approach. But ultimately, the buck stops with the President of the United States, as it always does.
Q: And just to get back to my first question, he doesn't really have any expertise when it comes to Ebola or public health. You're not quarreling with that -- that statement has already been made by some critics of this choice. I just want to make sure that that's something that --
MR. EARNEST: His area of expertise is in implementation. And that is exactly what is needed, is somebody who can coordinate this broad interagency response. We want to make sure that this tenacious response is up to the standards of the American people and up to the high standards that the President has set. And we are confident that somebody with Mr. Klain's management credentials both inside government and outside government -- he has a strong track record of implementing complex government policies, as evidenced by his success in implementing the Recovery Act. And we are confident he has all of the credentials that we could want for somebody who can implement these kinds of policies that are so critical to the safety and health of the American people.
Q: And when does he start? He starts today?
MR. EARNEST: He will start very soon. He did not start today, but we anticipate that he'll be onboard very soon.
Q: Will we see him out here doing briefings, or will he be talking to reporters in any capacity or to the public in any capacity?
MR. EARNEST: Yes, I mean, ultimately, his principal responsibility is going to be a coordination function. That ultimately is something that is principally a behind-the-scenes effort. But he also is somebody who has demonstrated throughout his career a capacity for being a very strong advocate. So his principal responsibility will be a coordinating function, an implementing function. That's going to require a lot of behind-the-scenes work. But I also wouldn't rule out that at some point he'll be in a position to be explaining his efforts to all of you.
Q: Josh, I want to ask you two questions. On the travel ban, has this administration taken into account as well when they are thinking of everything, pulling everything together on the possibilities of a travel ban to or not to have a ban -- have there been conversations about the sensitivities? If there is a travel ban, what would it do for this African nation, or what message would it send out, particularly as it would set a precedent when there was not a ban when there was Mad Cow disease in this nation?
MR. EARNEST: April, when we consider policy decisions like this we consider a range of consequences for those policy decisions. But I'll tell you the top priority -- and this takes priority over everything else -- that's the safety and wellbeing of the American public. And the reason that the President has not put in place a travel ban is because he does not believe it's in the best interest of that top priority.
Q: But talk to me about the sensitivities. Can you tell me if there was any conversation here? Because it is by some viewed as a racial issue, particularly when there was not a ban when, again, using 2003, the four cases of -- these four cases of Mad Cow disease. There was not a ban when people contracted Mad Cow disease.
MR. EARNEST: Well, April, I think the President was pretty clear in the Oval Office yesterday that he is not philosophically opposed to a travel ban. We're certainly aware of all the consequences of putting one in place. But the most important priority here and the priority that is driving this decision is the safety and health of the American people. And it is not in the best interest of the safety and health of the American people for a travel or visa ban to be put in place.
Q: And lastly, there is said to be a truce between Boko Haram and Nigeria, some kind of agreement to help to release the Nigerian girls after six months. What components of this are you aware of? Is it true? And what have you been told?
MR. EARNEST: I am personally not aware of those reports, but I'd refer you to my colleagues at the National Security Council that may have more information on it.
Q: Josh, I have a couple for you. First, does the Khorasan Group still pose a threat to the United States? Are they still actively plotting? We don't seem to be hearing a lot about airstrikes in Iraq and Syria targeting them anymore. What's the state of play?
MR. EARNEST: I don't have an updated intelligence assessment to present from here. I can tell you that we continue to be very concerned about threats emanating from Syria, including threats from the Khorasan Group. And as we continue to carry out airstrikes with our coalition partners in Syria, they'll be focused principally on denying a safe haven from extremist groups that are attempting to operate in that region of the world.
Obviously ISIL does get the most attention because they seem to be operating with the largest footprint there. But we continue to be concerned about the capability and the efforts of other extremist groups that are operating in Syria, including the Khorasan Group, and it's something that we continue to watch very closely.
Q: And then on the Ebola response, the administration has talked of this -- the pre-departure screenings in those three countries in Africa and the arrival screenings now. But as far as I can tell, the system has a zero percent success rate. None of the people who were stopped in Africa turned out to have Ebola, and the only person who did have Ebola got through the system. Why does that system inspire so much confidence and optimism here?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think this is a situation where you might be a glass half empty guy and maybe I'm a glass half full guy. That just goes to our disposition, maybe. I still appreciate your point of view. (Laughter.) Maybe that's part of your job description and part of mine. It could be.
But you're asking a serious question -- let me try to answer it. The goal of these screening measures that are in place both in West Africa and in the United States is to screen for individuals that are displaying symptoms of Ebola. The reason that that is critically important is that Ebola can only be transmitted when an individual comes in contact with the bodily fluids of an individual that is exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. So we want to make sure that we are protecting the transportation infrastructure certainly in this country, but across the world, and the safety and security of the American public. So by screening for those symptoms, we can protect the American public from catching Ebola.
So far, no one with Ebola symptoms has entered this country. So I recognize that you might describe that as a zero percent success rate, but to date it's evident to me that we have 100 percent success rate. But this is an ongoing effort that requires significant vigilance, and it's something that we -- as the President described yesterday, it's something that we take very seriously. And those efforts are ongoing every day.
Q: As part of the glass half empty, though, it seems like -- I mean, it could be a deterrent effect that people with those symptoms aren't bothering to try to go through the screenings. But otherwise, it feels like luck. I mean, as I said, just mathematically, the last time we were briefed on the numbers, no one who was turned away turned out to have Ebola, and the only person who did got through the system. I mean, I'm trying to get into why this policy is working, and I'm not -- obviously not convinced, I guess.
MR. EARNEST: Okay. The policy is intended to prevent individuals that have symptoms of Ebola from entering the United States of America. And thus far, zero individuals with symptoms of Ebola have entered the United States of America. I think the bottom line is that that is the reason that we believe this is the right policy.
It is a policy that requires significant vigilance. It's something that we're focused on on not just a daily basis, but an hourly basis. And some of the policies that DHS is putting in place are working to make sure that those screening measures apply to as many -- to travelers to this country from that region of the world, and what you're seeing is not just that they're having their temperature taken, but contact information is being collected and other things to make sure that we can have as tight a net as possible.
Q: Yesterday, you said the President was going to call leaders up on Capitol Hill. He spoke to Leader Pelosi, Reid, and House Speaker John Boehner. He also hinted that there might be some sort of discussion of additional funding for the Ebola response. So I'm wondering now that those conversations have taken place, whether any discussion of that happened, or if you could characterize the conversation.
MR. EARNEST: I don't have any additional details of the conversation to share with you. But I will tell you that we have not made any decisions about whether additional resources are necessary, but if we determine that they are we'll certainly be working closely with our partners in Congress to try to get them. And I think that we have seen in the last several weeks an acknowledgement from Democrats and Republicans that this is a serious issue that is worthy of the attention of the federal government. So we anticipate that if that's necessary, that we'll have partners on Capitol Hill, but that determination has not been reached at this point.
Q: A White House official told the Post last night that in those discussions the President asked leaders on Capitol Hill to kind of hold off on a travel ban. Can you say if that was a part of the conversations that they had?
MR. EARNEST: Again, I'm not in a position to give more detail about the conversation. If there was a discussion in any of those conversations about the wisdom of a travel ban, I'm confident the President gave a case very similar to the one that you heard him deliver in the Oval Office last night.
Q: Did the President extend a World Series bet to Nancy Pelosi on your behalf? (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: Not that I know of.
Q: Do you want to make one now?
MR. EARNEST: Maybe I should take that up with her. (Laughter.) That would be kind of fun.
Q: Josh, the President was not "cool" to a czar, but you were from this podium. Just a couple of days ago you said, "We have a perfectly reasonable management structure in place." You don't -- or you didn't. That's why you need to have Ron Klain?
MR. EARNEST: No. Major, I think that both in those comments and in the comments that I delivered yesterday in talking about this, that we did feel confident about and continue to feel confident about the structure that's in place. We believe, and we have always left open the opportunity that we might reach this conclusion, that if we needed to augment our resources that are dedicated to this effort, that we wouldn't hesitate to do so.
This is in line with the kind of adaptive, tenacious approach that we have pursued so far. And ultimately, the management structure that was in place last night, before Mr. Klain was named, is the same management structure that we'll have today. The difference is that Mr. Klain will step into the role of devoting 100 percent of his time to coordinating the interagency efforts of all of the federal departments that are responding to this situation.
Q: So it's fair to say that -- and without any criticism toward Lisa Monaco or Susan Rice -- they were getting to the point of being overwhelmed by all the decisions and information flow of this issue?
MR. EARNEST: No, that's not the way I would describe it. The way I would describe it is that both Dr. Rice and Ms. Monaco have other important national security priorities for which they are responsible. And the President felt like it was important to bring someone onboard who could devote 100 percent of his time to coordinating and implementing this response to the Ebola situation.
Q: And related to that, you told Jim that that was exactly was Lisa Monaco's job was at the interagency level -- implementing and collecting and coordinating all of those tasks.
MR. EARNEST: That's correct.
Q: So she's been relieved of that duty?
MR. EARNEST: No. Ms. Monaco is -- what Mr. Klain is doing is he will devote 100 percent of his time to that effort. Ms. Monaco has other important national security responsibilities for which she is responsible. So by being able to step in and devote 100 percent of his time to this effort, Ms. Monaco can spend more time focused on those other important national security priorities that she's responsible for. Mr. Klain will continue, when he steps into this role, will report to directly to Ms. Monaco and Susan Rice. They'll still have areas of responsibility when it comes to our Ebola response, but ultimately it will be Mr. Klain who is dedicating all of his time to coordinating this broad interagency effort.
Q: But let me ask you this. Let's say there's a situation where the experts have advised Ron that a school doesn't need to shut down for a second day -- just as a hypothetical, if it happened in Cleveland -- would he be the one to call and say, look, on behalf of the White House, on behalf of the CDC, I'm the person who's coordinating this for the President, we don't really think you need to go to this level of security, so don't do that? Would he be the kind of person to do that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, it's difficult to sort of engage this kind of hypothetical situation, but against my better judgment -- (laughter) -- since it's Friday I'll give it a shot.
I think this goes to what I've tried to convey.
Q: I'm trying to figure out what that person would do -- because all sorts of things are happening. People are positioning themselves and using abundance of caution, but in ways that may not actually be helpful economically or optically or whatever, and I would assume that the White House would have more than passing interest in some of the things that are being carried out as the public reacts to this. And I'm wondering if Ron would be so empowered, because he has 100 percent of his time on this task, to do that kind of follow-up.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think the point that I'm trying to make -- and this is something that we have discussed over the last couple of days -- is that there are specific agencies that are responsible for their areas of expertise. So when we're talking about schools, the Department of Education is involved in communicating with school districts all across the country on a whole wide range of things. So there might be a role for the Department of Education to play.
We would also urge that as people, whether they're school administrators or business owners, that they're relying on medical expertise as they're making decisions about how best to protect their communities or to protect their employees. And we would expect that they'd be able to get that medical advice either from the CDC or the HHS, or from their state and local health workers.
So there are clear lines of responsibility in terms of who is in charge of what. And Mr. Klain will have the responsibility of ensuring that all of the agencies are properly coordinating on that effort. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with the President of the United States.
Q: Okay. And you invited us to look at the President's remarks in the Oval Office yesterday, and the President said at the very tail-end, "An all-out travel ban may not be the best way to go." There are conversations that are less than an all-out travel ban that talk about targeted restrictions under certain circumstances, in certain geographic areas, in order to prevent unnecessary or unwanted exposure from people coming. I understand the President is opposed to an all-out travel ban, but in his remarks yesterday he did seem to leave open an ongoing conversation and possible implementation of something that is less blunt than an all-out travel ban, that may have targeted restrictions either by geography or by circumstance. Is that a fair interpretation of where the President is?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'll say two things about that. The first is, I know this was an issue that was discussed at Dr. Frieden's hearing with Congress yesterday -- because I think there are some in Congress who are advocating something less than an all-out travel ban, but something that might be more targeted along the lines that you're describing.
I think what the President was demonstrating in the Oval Office was his openness to implementing policies that he believes will do the most to protect the American public.
Q: He wouldn't oppose that.
MR. EARNEST: So thank you for helping me make my point, which is, if it assessed that there might be other aspects of our travel policies that would strengthen the health and security of the American public, then the President won't just consider them, he'll implement them. He applied -- it's not just that he applied that to a specific tailored approach, he said that was true of an all-out travel ban. If he concluded that an all-out travel ban actually would be in the best interest of protecting the health and safety of the American public, if circumstances changed on the ground in a way that an all-out travel ban needed to be implemented, the President wouldn't hesitate to do that.
He wouldn't hesitate to do that for two reasons. One is, he's not philosophically opposed to an all-out travel ban. And two, the guiding principle will always be what's in the best interest of the American people and their health and welfare and safety.
So if we determine that some sort of targeted approach that relies on things like time and circumstance would enhance the safety of the American public, then it's not only something we'd consider, it's something that we'd implement. But that's something that we'll have to evaluate as we move forward, and it's something that is being evaluated on a regular basis.
Q: Last question. This also came up at the hearing, that there is a push within the public health community and the world health community to try to find not a vaccine, because that's going to take a very long time, but a portable method, like a pinprick for someone who has diabetes, of determining whether or not somebody tests reasonably positive or perfectly positive for Ebola. And that would be a way of isolating on the ground in the affected countries immediately, so you can either quarantine or move people in certain healthful-non-healthful directions, and that there's been a lot of conversation that this a huge push within the U.N., the United States government, all the conversations the President is having with other world leaders about trying to ramp this up as fast as possible. Do you have any information about the effort involved there or the efficacy of something like that to deal with this situation?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I know that one of the ways in which the United States has played a leading role in this effort is that there is significant scientific expertise that we can bring to this matter. For decades, the United States has been intimately involved in responding to Ebola outbreaks in Africa. And the United States continues to play a leading role in doing research on vaccines and evaluating different treatment protocols for those who have contracted Ebola.
For more details on those sorts of scientific developments and those sorts of scientific studies that are underway, I think I'd refer you to the NIH who may have some more information about. Failing that, my colleagues at HHS may be able to provide you some additional information.
So, James, welcome to the briefing room. It's been a while since we've seen you here.
Q: Good to be back. Thank you very much. A few lines of inquiry on Mr. Klain and then two on Syria if I could. First, was Mr. Klain the first choice of the White House for this position, or were other approached prior to approaching Mr. Klain?
MR. EARNEST: Mr. Klain was the President's first choice for this responsibility, principally because of his strong track record of -- because of his strong management credentials both in the government but also in the private sector.
Q: Will he be a salaried employee of the executive branch?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know what sorts of logistical arrangements have been made for Mr. Klain, but we can certainly get that information for you once it's settled.
Q: He's going to be paid a salary of some kind?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know the answer -- I assume so, but I don't know the answer to that. But once we have greater clarity on that we'll let you know. I mean, as you know, James, we obviously release the -- publicly release the salaries of White House officials on an annual basis.
Q: Would the White House consider the application of the term "czar" to Mr. Klain to be pejorative?
MR. EARNEST: I think you probably have to ask -- let me say it this way. I think you can get a variety of opinions depending on who you ask. As far as I'm concerned, you can call him anything you want. We call him the Ebola Response Coordinator.
Q: In other words, would you regard it as inaccurate or pejorative for us to describe him as a czar? If you felt so, you would be free to say so from the podium, it seems to me.
MR. EARNEST: There is nobody who, as far as I know, is in any way restraining me from sharing my candid opinion with you on a variety of topics. (Laughter.)
Q: As far as you know.
MR. EARNEST: As far as I know. Well, I'd prefer to talk to you about baseball, for example. I'm happy to talk to you about this topic fully. Candidly, I don't care what you call him. We call him the Ebola Response Coordinator. Mr. Klain may care what you call him, but we call him the Ebola Response Coordinator.
Q: You can check with him on our behalf. On this question of travel bans or visa bans, you've indicated from the podium today that it's not something that President would hesitate to do if he thought it would be more effective than what is presently being pursued.
MR. EARNEST: That's correct.
Q: Presumably then, it is only a matter of efficacy that is preventing him from employing this approach. It is not some perceived lack of presidential authority to implement such bans, correct?
MR. EARNEST: That prospect has not been raised for me. I don't know --
Q: I mean, if you're keeping an open mind about pursuing it, it seems then that there's already been a determination that it would be lawful for the President to do it.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don't know if that determination has been made. I don't know that anybody has raised any objection or suggested that somehow it wasn't within the authority of the executive branch to put in place some sort of ban like that to protect the health and safety of the American public. So you might --
Q: -- here today, you believe he does have this authority --
MR. EARNEST: Well, I'm not in a position to dispense legal advice to the President or to anybody else, frankly. So you could check with a lawyer on that issue. But I have not -- what I can tell you is that in the variety of meetings that I've participated in on this topic, I have not heard anybody raise the prospect that the executive branch didn't have the necessary authority to take a step like a travel ban. Now, that being said, there hasn't been, frankly, careful consideration of a travel ban because even a cursory review of the impact of a travel ban would lead just about every expert to conclude that it's not in the best interest of the safety and health of the American public to put one in place.
So my point is, we haven't spent a whole lot of time researching what sort of authority would be used to put in place a travel ban because we don't think a travel ban is a good thing to put in place.
Q: You've indicated that the appointment of Mr. Klain has come about because President Obama recognize the need for there to be somebody in such position who could devote 100 percent of his time to the Ebola situation. When exactly did it dawn on President Obama that Lisa Monaco wouldn't be able to devote 100 percent of her time to the Ebola situation?
MR. EARNEST: Ms. Monaco has, throughout our response to this situation, continued to be responsible for a range of other core national security priorities that she carefully monitors and works on here at the White House. So she has not been in a position in which she has dedicated 100 percent of her time to the Ebola response. She, however, has done, even using her limited time, an outstanding job in ensuring that the efforts of agencies all across the government are properly integrated in this response. But there will be a benefit to Mr. Klain and somebody with his set of management credentials devoting 100 percent of his time to this effort.
Q: In other words, what about the Ebola situation developed and when did it develop to the point where the President realized he needs someone who can devote 100 percent of his time? I'm going to assume that he has always known that Ms. Monaco would not be able to do that. He was okay with that situation just 48 hours ago and just 24 hours ago. So when did it dawn on him he needs someone who can devote 100 percent of their time?
MR. EARNEST: As you know, James, the President has spent a significant amount of time in the last couple of days in particular with his team who is responding to this particular situation and he has been carefully assessing the response that's been in place. As he described yesterday, he believes that Ms. Monaco and the National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, have both done an outstanding job on this. And he believes that --
Q: What changed that he suddenly decided, I need somebody who can devote 100 percent of their time?
MR. EARNEST: Well, he believes that having somebody who can devote 100 percent of their time will be beneficial to this broader effort.
Q: I understand that. You've made that clear. What changed?
MR. EARNEST: If you have a series of questions we may want to get to them, because I want to make sure we get around the room here.
Q: I'm just asking what was motivating his choice of this individual.
MR. EARNEST: The President believes that it would be beneficial to the response to have somebody with Mr. Klain's management credentials focused on this task 100 percent of the time.
Q: Because this has become a non-responsive exercise, I will move on to Syria. Two quick questions. Number one is --
MR. EARNEST: We're going to keep it to two, and then we're going to move on, okay?
Q: The President has made clear, others have made clear this is a multipronged effort of which the military piece is only one prong. Another important prong of the effort as it has been described to us is the arming, equipping and training of Syria rebel forces who are moderate and vetted. In the more than one month that has passed since the President gave his primetime address, how's that going? What progress has been made in the arming, training and equipping of moderate and vetted Syrian rebels?
MR. EARNEST: I'd refer you to the Department of Defense. They're the ones that are taking the lead on that effort.
Q: Lastly, on the Khorasan Group, following up on Olivier Knox's question, prior to the commencement of U.S. and allied airstrikes in Syria recently was there any evidence ever that the Khorasan Group had advanced beyond the plotting stage in any particular attack?
MR. EARNEST: What I can share with you is the intelligence assessment that you've heard from other senior administration officials that we believe that the Khorasan Group was nearing the execution phase of a plot against the United States, and that is why the President ordered the strikes in Syria against them.
Q: But prior to that point, had there ever been any other attack with which they were associated and which had moved beyond the plotting stage?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I obviously can't provide an intelligence assessment on that issue from here.
Q: Obviously, the disease itself, Ebola, even carries more fear than perhaps is warranted, and part of the problem seems to be a lack of confidence in the American people right now in the response. And part of that seems to be caused by health workers in this country who have dealt with this problem traveling around, including one now on a cruise ship, several who -- and the other one who traveled around the country the other day. Is the President as flabbergasted as the rest of us that this is going on with health workers?
MR. EARNEST: Well, let's talk about a couple of these issues, Jim, and I'm glad that you raise them. The first is, as it relates to the hospital employee that is on that cruise ship, you saw from the State Department in their statement last night that this is an individual who had been responsible for handling the laboratory specimens of the patient. Obviously an individual who is in that role is facing a much lower risk than some of the health care workers that are being so closely monitored in Dallas right now. So it's important for people to understand that.
The second thing is, as it relates to the travel of these two individuals, that travel commenced prior to the first health care worker testing positive for Ebola. So once that first health care worker tested positive for Ebola, the assessment of risk changed and the monitoring regime for all of the health care workers that came into contact with the patient or his laboratory specimens changed. So essentially those monitoring regiments changed after those individuals had already traveled.
Now, Dr. Frieden himself has addressed whether or not the second health care worker should have returned from Ohio on a commercial aircraft. He said that that shouldn't have happened, and that was the result of an error that occurred at the Centers for Disease Control. But ultimately, even given all those circumstances, the thing that our medical experts tell us is that event those individuals who are on the plane with the second health care worker, that the risk that they face is low. But the CDC does believe that it's prudent for those individuals to be in contact with the CDC. I believe that they have been in touch with the vast majority, if not all of the passengers, and will be working with them to ensure that they understand accurately the risks that they face and that they are getting the kind of support that they need in terms of answering their questions about this situation.
Q: Yes, I understand all that. But fear, perhaps even outsized fear, is a major factor here in this disease. And when health care workers themselves are not overly careful, and, in fact, you have a situation -- now it's become an international incident where this health care worker on the cruise ship can't even get back to this country because the other countries won't let the ship go to port -- isn't it time for somebody in the administration to stand up and say publicly to health care workers, stay put, don't travel around, don't frighten the American public?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, first of all, we're talking about health care workers here that, particularly in the situation in Dallas, were willing to step up to the plate and assume some risk to themselves in order to care for a victim of this terrible disease. And that is a decision that demonstrates a lot of character and I think is consistent with the kind of spirit that makes the citizens of this country so proud of them.
And I think today is a day for us to be reminded -- particularly with the emergence of this video of the first health care worker that was taken in her room in Dallas before she was transported to NIH -- this is a young woman who assumed significant personal risk, even more personal risk than she originally thought, not because she thought it would get her fame or glory, not because she thought it would get her a raise; she did this because it was her job and because she's passionate about her job and caring for someone who is sick, someone she didn't even know. And I think that is worthy of praise and acclaim and attention.
At the same time, the CDC has a responsibility to make sure that they are communicating clearly with these health care workers that do face an elevated risk. And that is what the CDC has done, particularly in light of at least two of their coworkers testing positive for the Ebola virus.
Q: A couple questions back on the Ebola Response Coordinator. First is can you clarify what Ron Klain's relationship is going to be with the military in terms of the response in Africa? Because is that also something you would be coordinating, or is that operating separately?
MR. EARNEST: The coordination function that he will perform includes both activities that are taking place here in the United States to detect, isolate and treat Ebola patients in a way that protects the American public and health care workers here in this country. It also includes coordinating the activities of a variety of federal agencies overseas.
There is an effort underway by CDC, USAID and the Department of Defense to try to stop this outbreak at the source in West Africa. Our experts tell us that the only way that we can completely eliminate risk from the Ebola virus is to stop this outbreak at the source. And that's why you've seen CDC and USAID officials on the ground in West Africa since this spring when this outbreak first occurred. It's why you've seen the President commit significant logistical resources from the Department of Defense to assist in that response effort. And Mr. Klain will have the responsibility of ensuring that all of those efforts are properly integrated into the overall whole-of-government approach that we're taking here.
Q: And just following up on one other thing, I know you've talked about this focus on implementation. The President and Denis McDonough created a deputy chief of staff position for policy implementation a few months back. Obviously part of it was to try to deal with emerging issues that have interagency components. Can you talk about why there was a need to do this, or what it might say about kind of the limited staffing that you have at the White House that there's a need to bring someone else in to do policy implementation when you do have a designated post for that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, you're referring to Ms. Canegallo, my colleague who is the Deputy Chief of Staff here at the White House for implementation. She also does excellent work and she is somebody who has demonstrated on a variety of occasions the kind of tremendous capability that the President expects from members of his senior staff. And from a range of national security issues to the implementation of health care reform, she has demonstrated an ability to handle a lot of different highly sensitive topics and complete them exceedingly well.
Again, she has important responsibilities, and this coordination function requires somebody who could dedicate 100 percent of their time. So I guess in short what I'm saying is that we're confident that Mr. Klain is somebody who has the kind of management credentials that will allow him to succeed in this effort because he'll be able to dedicate 100 percent of his time to just focusing on this particular response.
Q: And I assume this open -- right now this is an open-ended commitment? There is no specific time frame for how long Mr. Klain will be appointed?
MR. EARNEST: I believe there is -- that the expectation is that this is not a permanent commitment; that we're looking at something on the order of five or six months. But we can get you some greater clarity on that as he assumes this role.
Q: Yes, I'm still a little unclear on exactly what he'll do. Will he make decisions? Will he sort of explore the policy things? Will he be leading up the exploration of whether some partial travel ban or changes to -- policy changes -- will he be doing that? Or will he just be doing conference calls and stuff? (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: I think what you can assume Mr. Klain's role will be, it will be an important high-level implementation role, and ultimately it will be his responsibility to make sure that all of the government agencies who are responsible for aspects of this response, that their efforts are carefully integrated.
He also will be playing a role in making sure that decisions get made -- that a lot of the decisions that we're talking about here have different equities, so Major used the example of a school. That's a situation where you have HHS, CDC, the Department of Education all with a point of view, and all with a legitimate perspective on a policy decision that should be made. So it will be Mr. Klain's responsibility not to make that decision overruling these other government agencies, but rather to convene the kinds of conversations that are necessary to make these decisions that reflect the government's equities and to make sure that those decisions happen promptly.
And Mr. Klain has -- this is a special area of his expertise. He is somebody that has spent a lot of time in high-level government positions in this administration and in previous administrations ensuring that these kinds of decisions get made properly. Obviously, he spent a lot of time implementing the Recovery Act with tremendous results for our economy but also in a way that was consistent with the President's commitment to transparency. There was a -- somebody who was responsible for monitoring that program to assess the level of fraud. There was an extraordinarily low level of fraud associated with the Recovery Act. That is also a testament to the management skills of the Vice President and Mr. Klain, who was his chief of staff at the time.
So I think all of that leads you to -- at least it leads me to the conclusion that somebody with this set of management experience and this is somebody that has the kind of solid working relationships with members of Congress, with members of the administration, with state and local officials across the country, can guide a broader process that will drive decisions and making sure that we're putting in place the kind of tenacious policy response that the American people can expect.
Q: And will he be talking to the President on a semi-regular basis, updating and briefing him?
MR. EARNEST: I'm sure that he'll be in touch with the President as often as Ms. Monaco and the National Security Advisor determine is necessary.
Q: The President for the last several weeks has been making a lot questions about the international response. He's said that the international community hasn't done enough. For the last four or five weeks, he's been making that same comment. What exactly does he want from the international community? What has he been able to get so far? And why has he seemed to have trouble getting everyone on board?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think what I'd -- let me say a couple of things about that. The President hasn't just said that in public; the President said it in private. You recall that he conducted a phone call with the Prime Minister of Japan a couple of days ago. He convened a meeting of European leaders via secure video teleconference to talk about the international response to this issue. Just yesterday the President talked to the Prime Minister of Sweden about this. I did note as I was reading my clips last night that hours after hanging up the phone with the President of the United States that the government of Sweden committed another $10 million or $12 million to this effort. So that's indicative of I think at least one small-bore example of the President getting results.
And I think the expectation the President has is that the response from individual countries across the world should reflect the severity of the situation in West Africa. We need a substantial commitment of resources and expertise from countries around the world to make sure that we are confronting the worst Ebola outbreak ever. You've seen a significant commitment of American resources to this effort. The Department of Defense is using their logistical expertise in a way that will significantly enhance their response. I think that will inspire the confidence of the world that their investment of money and resources to this response effort will be well spent. It certainly is in the clear interest of countries around the world and the United States that this response move expeditiously to stop this outbreak at the source.
Q: Is it more about money or is there more to it than that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think it's certainly about money. It also is about expertise and personnel who can make sure that we are getting out the word to people in West Africa about how they can avoid contracting Ebola. It also means health care professionals who can treat Ebola patients. There are a variety of things that are needed.
For a more detailed assessment of what is actually needed on the ground right now, I'd actually refer you to the USAID. They may be able to give you a better assessment. They have personnel that's working in communities across these three countries trying to maximize the impact of the response.
Q: Just one last one.
MR. EARNEST: Sure.
Q: Is there any level of frustration? Since the President has been making this comment for several weeks, is there any level of frustration that he hasn't been able to get the international community to do as much as he'd like them to do?
MR. EARNEST: Well, we have seen commitments from countries across the world; we just haven't seen as much as we would like. And so I think that you could describe the President as somebody who feels a sense of urgency about this situation.
Q: Thanks, Josh. You've said that Mr. Klain will be largely behind the scenes in this coordinating role, and I'm wondering if there's been any discussion about having a more singular voice in terms of messaging from the administration, given the level of fear and seeming to be -- continuing belief in things that are, frankly, misinformation.
MR. EARNEST: Well, Chris, it's not a coincidence that you've heard the President two days in a row talking about this issue. I think he speaks -- I think he's a pretty singular voice in terms of this administration's response.
The fact of the matter is that there are a variety of government agencies that are leveraging their expertise to try to deal with this situation and protect the American public. And I think that's why you see people like the Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson talking about this issue. It's certainly why you see medical experts like Tom Frieden and Anthony Fauci talking about the role that they have to play as the relates to protecting the health and safety of the American public.
I believe it was two weeks ago today you saw a news conference that was convened in this very room. I wasn't here, but Lisa Monaco and General Rodriquez from AFRICOM was here, alongside Administrator of USAID and others, to demonstrate to all of you that we're pursuing a whole-of-government approach to this situation. And I think that whole-of-government approach is evidenced by the fact you've heard the President talk about it quite a bit lately, but it also is evidenced by the fact that there are other Cabinet-level officials and medical experts who are also communicating the facts to the American public about what we're doing to respond to the Ebola virus, and to help people understand exactly what level of risk they face.
Q: I guess that exactly makes my point, which is that there does seem to still be misinformation out there, and clearly fear -- we've seen some of the reactions that have happened across the country. And is it possible that some of that is because people have heard from so many different voices within the administration and don't have one familiar face to turn to?
MR. EARNEST: No, I don't think so, Chris. I think what they're hearing from all of these different members of the administration is the same thing, which is that the risk of an Ebola outbreak -- a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States is exceedingly low, that the risk to the average person is exceedingly low in terms of catching Ebola.
There are two Americans that have contracted Ebola in this country, and again, those are two health care workers that assumed some personal risk to try to meet the needs of a patient who was stricken with Ebola. They obviously were at a different level of risk than the average American. And the fact is people can take solace in the facts and in understanding exactly what we're doing to deal with the situation. One thing they should understand is exactly how one catches Ebola. You don't catch Ebola through the air. You don't catch Ebola by drinking the water or eating the food in this country. You catch Ebola only by coming into the close contact with the bodily fluids of an individual that is demonstrating, exhibiting symptoms of Ebola.
It's important for people to understand that. And again -- I mentioned this to Jim yesterday -- when he appears on CNN, it's true when you appear on NBC, when people see your face and they see the NBC logo in the corner of the screen, they know that they're hearing from a trusted voice. And so we certainly are counting on people like you who have that kind of status with the American public to help them understand exactly how they're affected by ongoing events in the world. And this is I think a terrific example of that.
Q: Are you taking a jab at the media, Josh?
Q: My family thinks --
MR. EARNEST: It's true.
Q: Is that a subtle jab at the media? Is that what --
MR. EARNEST: It's not. It's not. People get their information by watching your network, and they rely on you for accurate information about what's happening in the world and how what's happening in the world affects them. And the reason that you have the jobs that you do is because people trust you. And that's an important responsibility. I know at least the people in this room take that responsibility seriously. And that's why we spend so much time talking to you about what's happening -- that we want to help you help people across the country understand exactly what this government is doing to keep them safe, and to help them understand exactly what risk, what level of risk they face. In this case, that risk is exceedingly low for the average American.
Q: You suggested, Josh, that you were not surprised that some of the Republicans were critical --
MR. EARNEST: I was not. (Laughter.) I regret that I've become so cynical in --
Q: -- and perhaps suggest that politics may have played a role in some of those comments. But a couple of weeks before the election, I'm assuming you will say that this was a public health decision, not a political one. But was there Democratic pressure particularly from those who are running in just a few weeks for election or reelection to do something?
MR. EARNEST: I'll tell you that the sense of urgency that everybody in this administration feels is not from politicians, it's from the American people -- that they have high expectations for their government to keep them safe and --
Q: But was there was pressure from those members of Congress?
MR. EARNEST: I don't know. Look, if you read -- those people who are paying very close and careful attention to what members of Congress say can probably find a quote or two from members of Congress saying that something like this would be a good idea. But again, what we are focused on is making sure that we're protecting the American people. And that is something that the President believes is his first responsibility as the Commander-in-Chief and as the President of the United States. And those are -- that's the sentiment that is driving this response, and that is the value that is driving the decision to ask Mr. Klain to step into this role.
Q: And I know you say he's going to start soon, but do you have any sense of when we will see him or hear comments from him?
MR. EARNEST: I don't at this point, but we'll let you know, obviously.
Q: Thanks, Josh.
MR. EARNEST: Mark, did you have your hand up earlier?
Q: I wanted to just ask whether you're deputizing us as sort of Ebola czars to represent the policy to the American people.
MR. EARNEST: If you choose to assume that responsibility, we're happy to work with you on it.
Q: We'd probably do a better job if we went to the meetings in the Oval Office. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: Well, the last couple of days you guys have been in the end of the meetings.
Q: It's not quite the same.
MR. EARNEST: It's not quite the same. I would concede that.
Q: One last question --
Q: Don't deputize him. (Laughter.)
Q: The President mentioned his problem with the credit card in New York a few weeks ago when he was signing the executive order today. Did anyone find out why his credit card for dinner at a restaurant in New York City was not accepted?
MR. EARNEST: No. I'm hearing about this incident for the first time today.
Q: When signing the executive order he said that he went out to dinner in New York City during U.N. week and it was fortunate that Michelle had her credit card because his was rejected. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: No, I'm not able to speak to the current status of the presidential credit card.
Q: Might OMB know? (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: They might. I think the thing that is still unclear is whether or not the President left a tip at the bottom of the executive order when he was signing.
Q: Ooohh --
MR. EARNEST: It seemed funnier when I told that joke in my office before I came down here. (Laughter.) Maybe we're all getting a little tired.
I'll give you the last one and then we'll move on.
Q: Your staff says it wasn't that funny to them -- (laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: Oh, really? I see. Hopefully, they won't be fact-checked for that, because they might get some Pinocchios. (Laughter.)
Q: When did the President decide to ask Ron Klain to serve in this role? Had they already had a conversation when he said last night that this may be necessary? Or did this all transpire -- the President made his decision and selected somebody and you announced it literally in a matter of hours?
MR. EARNEST: I guess to give you a short answer to that question, this happened this morning.
Q: He called?
Q: He spoke to Ron Klain for the first time this morning and asked him to serve in this role?
MR. EARNEST: I think that there were -- we'll have to get you some more information on this if we can about the conversations with Mr. Klain. Mr. Klain accepted this responsibility this morning and that's when the decision was made.
Q: And that's when the President decided that one person was needed to be an Ebola response coordinator?
MR. EARNEST: That's correct. That's correct.
Let me just do a quick week ahead and then we'll let you guys get started on your weekend. (Laughter.) I assume you guys are looking forward to it.
Q: We are working through the day. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: That's good. That's good. As self-anointed Ebola czars, I'd expect nothing less.
What I can tell you about the President's schedule next week is it remains in flux. The President, however, on Sunday, will be participating in a campaign event in Maryland prior to traveling to Chicago, where he'll spend the night on Sunday night. On Monday, the President will have a couple of activities in Chicago before returning to Washington on Monday night.
His schedule Tuesday through Friday --
Q: The ones on Monday will be official?
MR. EARNEST: I will get some additional guidance on that. I don't have that in front of me. I believe that it's a little of both, but we'll check on that for you.
And then, his schedule Tuesday through Friday remains in flux at this point, but if we can get you some more details over the weekend, we will. If not, we'll at least get you some more guidance on Monday.
Q: As things stand now, he's going to go ahead and do the campaign event. Does that reflect the judgment on his part that the state of the crisis atmosphere is such that it's appropriate for him to do that?
MR. EARNEST: The President has spent a lot of time focused on ensuring that our response to this particular situation with Ebola is up to the standards that he expects from his administration on behalf of the American people. I'm confident that even while the President is traveling he will have to spend some time and energy on the Ebola response situation, whether it's doing some phone calls or receiving some briefings. But the President is confident that he will be able to both continue the work on the Ebola response even while he's traveling.
And that's the -- this is the decision that we always have to make on this, is can the President do what needs to get done even while he's on the road. And it was the assessment earlier this week that on Wednesday and Thursday it was necessary for the President to remain at the White House so that he could be focused on these things. He'll continue to work on these things even while he's traveling Sunday night into Monday.
All right, everybody. Have a great weekend.
END 2:27 P.M. EDT
Barack Obama, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/307701