tv [untitled] May 11, 2016 7:01pm-8:02pm EDT
setting levels for the centers for disease control. they plan to move forward on a bipartisan compromise. but that his impression is that not a single thing has failed to happen that otherwise would have happened because of money. meanwhile, the house said today that congress is moving too slowly. here's spokesman josh ernest. mr. earnest: good afternoon, everybody. do have some brief comments before we get to your questions. in response to specific requests i received yesterday for additional information about the zika virus, i also have a visual aid. you can see.
it's for everybody. but it's certainly a response to your request. earlier this week i highlighted the letter from the national governors association urging congress to work, quote, as expeditiously as possible, to ensure that funds are available for states, territories and the public at large, to combat the threat of zika. many of will you recall that the president convened a meeting with some of his national security team and our public health professionals back in january to discuss the potential impact of the zika virus on the united states. that meeting led the president to note in early february that he intended to forward a formal equest to congress for specific emergency supplemental legislation that would be focused on fighting the zika virus. a couple weeks later, in mid february, the administration put forward that specific proposal to congress.
that's now almost three months ago. even though we had months to get ahead of this emergency, before we start to see direct transmission of zika by mosquitoes in the united states , congress has not acted. congress has basically done nothing to act on this specific request for funding put forward by the administration and endorsed by democratic and republican governors across the country and our nation's foremost public health experts. as you can see in the graphic behind me, the time to prepare before zika begins to spread in the continental united states is rapidly closing. as c.d.c. has said for months, based on historical trends, we expect to see transmission of zika from mosquitoes inside the united states starting in june or july. this graphic shows the expected abundance of the mosquito and increase in its
presence over the summer months. as you can clearly see, the threat from the zika virus is only increasing. the truth is, this is an emergency now. and congress should treat it that way. we need emergency funding from congress that allows us to take urgent and immediate steps to limit the impact of the zika virus. what this graphic clearly shows is we cannot wait until october for the normal appropriations cycle before we confront this emergency. action is needed from congress now to provide necessary funding this year to protect pregnant women and their babies in the united states. if you all -- as you all are well aware, we've been asking congress to take action since we submitted a request in february, you've heard from the foremost public health experts in the world about why we need this additional funding and why we need it now. we are working around the clock , these public health professionals are bjork -- working around the clock, state and local officials are working around the clock to protect the
american public. congress, however, just returned from recess two days ago. and given the threat that this virus poses to american mothers and their babies, congress should not leave town for another recess before sending a zika funding bill to the president's desk for his signature. i think the map behind me is a graphic illustration of the need for immediate congressional action. it also is an appropriate illustration for why the current approach that's advocated by republican leaders in congress is woefully insufficient. under the republican plan that republican leaders have just started to discuss, is that they may get around to passing funding and approving funding for the zika virus in october. as you can see from the map, that would be after the peak of the mosquito season. so -- there's the expression about closing the barn door
after the horse has already left. i would be tempted to use that analogy in this situation if the situation weren't so serious. we need some congressional action and we need a sense of urgency and we need it now. with all that, brad, welcome to the front row. we'll let you get started off with questions here. reporter: before we get back to zika, i want to talk about reports of the islamic state forces dancing on the ancient syrian city. that seems to put new an odd position. are you hoping the assad regime holds the city? mr. earnest: we obviously -- i don't have the latest battlefield assessment to offer here. as we noted at the time, we bviously were pleased to see isil give up the city. and the focus of our efforts
has been on degrading and ultimately destroying that terrorist organization. we welcomed that development and we certainly do not want to see isil expand the territory that they control and we certainly do not want to see isil put at risk once again such a historically and culturally significant city. eporter: given the threat of isis reconquering the city and gaining what would be a major strategic victory, is this a situation where the u.s. could conceivably coordinate with russia, which is providing backup to assad and indirectly to mr. ayotte: sad's military? -- to assad's military? mr. earnest: we have talked about efforts currently under way to deconflict our military activities with russia in the skies over iraq and in syria. there have been a number of consultations about that. but those consultations have stopped short of any sort of
formal military cooperation. i don't anticipate that that will change. reporter: i wanted to ask you about iraq. there's been three car bombings in the last 24 hours or so. over 90 people killed. daiish is claiming responsibility. are you worried that daiish is trying to claim baghdad again for a possible assault as we saw 1 months ago? -- 18 months ago? mr. earnest: the united states strongly condemns the multiple attacks in and around baghdad today. initial estimates project more than 80 iraqi citizens have been killed in those attacks. many more have been injured. these attacks demonstrate that terrorists carry out these abominable attacks without regard to innocent civilian life and in order to stoke tensions between these communities even further. we reiterate our solidarity with the iraqi people against the threat from isil. isil is a common enemy to all
iraqis, americans and the 65 nations who are part of our counter-isil coalition. by working together the iraqi people have made important gains against isil since 2014. and every step the united states has taken is to support the iraqi government and the iraqi people as they take back their country. i think what is clear from this incident is that a lot of innocent people have been killed and injured. and it certainly is consistent with isil's strategy of wreaking havoc and sewing chaos and violence and sectarian tension. in many cases they do that by killing innocent people. by targeting them specifically. those tactics are abhorrent. and it's a good illustration of exactly what the united states has rallied behind the united states to defeat.
reporter: lastly, are you worried that the iraqi government's inability to provide security in the capital is going to fuel the political instability that's been going on and which has been hampering critical elements of the anti-isil offense? mr. earnest: what is clear is the top priority of the government is the national security of iraq and protecting the citizens of iraq from this sort of sirens is their government's top priority. the administration, the united states government, has been of the strongly held view that the iraqi government is more likely to be successful in securing the country if they can succeed in uniting that country to face down the threat. that's what prime minister abadi has tried to do. he's worked hard across sectarian lines to build diverse support for his government and for the effort to degrade and ultimately
destroy isil and that's why the united states has found prime minister abadi and the iraqi central government to be effective partners and it's why we continue to stand with them as they confront this serious hreat. reporter: the brazilian nat is likely -- senate is likely to -- [inaudible] -- what are the implications of that likely action for u.s.-brazil relations? mr. earnest: you heard the president talk about this when he was in argentina. our view at this point has not changed. the president noted our confidence in the durability of brazil's democratic institutions to whether this political -- weather this political turmoil. brazil has a system of laws, it's a mature democracy, and it has an established system for resolving these political conflicts inside their country. so there's no denying that this
is a challenging time for the nation of brazil and for the government officials that are trying to leave that country. -- lead that country. obviously brazil is under the international spotlight. the attention of the world will be focused on brazil later this summer had they host the olympic games. brazil is under some scrutiny and under some pressure and the united states is going to be there to support our friend and partner as they deal with the significant challenges that they're facing right now. but as it relates to the political situation, we continue to have confidence in the mature, durable, democratic institutions in brazil to with stand the challenge. reporter: does that mean that the u.s. government does not have any concerns about how that process is playing out right now and whether it's legitimate and fair and following the laws that the
brazilian people have ordered? earn we obviously believe that these democratic -- mr. earnest: we obviously believe that these democratic institutions were established or a reason and the rules that guide that democracy should be followed. i'm not going to render a judgment from here about individual claims or actions that have been taken by political leaders in brazil. our hope, and we continue to have confidence, that those democratic institutions in brazil can weather the political turmoil that that country is dealing with right now. reporter: changing the subject to a domestic one. here's a new poll similar to other ones that have come out showing donald trump and in a neck and
neck race. even though polls are early and there's not a democratic nominee yet, is it a concern to this white house considering the fact that the president has said repeatedly that he'd like to see a democrat succeed? mr. earnest: there are going to be a lot of polls conducted between now and then. and those -- that's an entirely legitimate endeavor. and sometimes they can provide a valuable snapshot of the mood of the country and the preferences of the country's voters. the president has had ample opportunities already this year to talk about how important this upcoming election is. because of the -- in fact, that election is so important that the president expects over the course of the summer and certainly into the fall to be dedicating a significant portion of his time to engaging in the debate around the election.
the president does have a strong desire to be succeeded by someone who is committed to building on all of the important progress that we've made over the last seven or eight years. that i think will be the nature of the president's involvement and the argument that he hopes to make. reporter: are you concerned about polls shows such a tight race right now between the democrat and donald trump? mr. earnest: i think what i would say is that there are some polls that have been released that show that the general election is not particularly close right now. and there are others that have been released that indicate a closer race. the president's approach to this election will be the same, regardless of how close the polls indicate that the race is. the stakes are too high to take this election lightly. hosting a presidential election every four years means that the
american people have an opportunity to weigh in on who's going to lead the country and who in fact is going to lead the free world, so the stakes of this election are high. the president believes that the outcome is critically important. and regardless of what predictions are made about the outcome at this point, the president will be fully engaged in making an argument about having a successor that's committed to building on the progress that we've made over the last seven or eight years. reporter: lawmakers in the house missed a self-imposed deadline today to release zika legislation. i'm wondering how concerned the white house is about this latest delay, whether you believe it shows a temporary pickup in getting the legislation out? mr. earnest: i knee democrats and republicans on the -- in the house continue to try to work through the differences that have emerged as they've tried to put this legislation together. we have worked to try to nurture that bipartisan effort.
there are experts in the u.s. government, particularly at the treasury department, that have offered technical assistance to those who are drafting the bill . our position on this has been clear from the beginning. it was back in october that we put forward our proposed legislative solution. and the view of the administration is that congress needs to provide puerto rico with an orderly restructuring regime that would give the puerto rican government the kind of authority that states all across the country, cities an states all across the country, already have. that restructuring authority would allow puerto rico to deal with the financial challenges that they're facing right now. we also believe that in exchange for that authority, the puerto rican government should commit to implementing some economic and financial reforms that would be gd fu -- good for long-term health of the puerto rican economy and we believe there should be accountability with those reforms. there are a number of proposals
independent ly oversight that could be provided to ensure that puerto rico follows through on the reforms. there's some other proposals that we have looked favorably upon, that would do things like reform puerto rico's medicaid program, and extend the earned income tax credit to taxpayers in puerto rico. this would have a positive economic benefit for puerto rico, which would have a corresponding positive impact on the quality of life on the island and a positive impact on the island's fiscal picture. but right now you have three million americans, more than three million americans, who re living on an island that is facing some austere challenges, that are already having a real -world impact on the lives of the americans there.
secretary of the treasury jack lue visited puerto rico earlier this week and saw firsthand some of these challenges. i was in a meeting with him where he was talking about this today. he talked about the fact that he visited hospitals in puerto rico arc least one hospital, -- puerto rico, at least one hospital, where doctors were challenged to acquire medicine that could be used to treat pediatric cancer patients. the challenges they have is that they basically have to pay for medicine c.o.d. they have to provide cash on delivery for that medicine. so it's not -- they have to do that every day. that means that doctors' ability to -- ability to provide life-saving medicine to kids in puerto rico is affected confidence in
the puerto rican government's ability to pay their bills, so here are human costs here. these are american citizens that we're talking about. it's easy to get lost in a debate about which bond holder is going to get paid first and how much they're going to get paid. but the truth is, resolving these challenges and resolving them soon is going to have an impact on the lives of innocent americans in puerto rico. reporter: just to be clear, this delay today, that crept up today, does the white house view that more as i guess a procedural snafu, like how you turn our conversations about t.p.a. or this broader, like, conflict that you're concerned is not going to be resolved? mr. earnest: i guess i'd go back to where i started which is that there are still democrats and republicans on the committee in the house that
are working in good faith to try to produce a piece of bipartisan legislation that would address the concerns that i laid out. so we've got confidence in that process. we're going to continue to support and try to nurture that process, to yield a piece of legislation that would address the many challenges facing puerto rico. we're hopeful that -- look, there's no denying that congress is late to the game here. and there has been some -- there's been an unhelpful effort on the part of some epublicans to gum up the works here, including by lobbying -- lobbing false charges, suggesting that somehow this is a bailout of puerto rico. it's not. and the irony is that the more success that those republicans have in gumming up the works, the more likely it is that the only alternative for dealing with puerto rico will be a bailout. that's something we all want to avoid. that's why we've been urging congress to act in bipartisan
fashion to pass this bill. reporter: a follow-up on puerto rico. does the administration have a forecast if it doesn't meet its july deadline in makinging the payment? mr. earnest: i'm sure there have been a number of forecasts conducted. i haven't seen one that beeve made public. you can check with the treasury department about that. reporter: can you talk more broadly about the situation in puerto rico in terms of how it's impacting education, health care and also fighting the zika virus, i understand more than 600 cases there already. mr. earnest: again, i'd refer you to the treasury department again. secretary lue was just there on monday. and he saw a bunch of this -- a bufplg of these negative impacts firsthand. i just relaid the example of him visiting a hospital there. that obviously is a pretty graphic illustration of the challenges that puerto rico is facing as a result of these budgetary problems.
and i think they're a good illustration of why congress needs to act as soon as possible, so that we can get to work fixing these problems. i haven't seen the latest tally in terms of the number of zika cases that have been identified in puerto rico. but obviously puerto rico is under great financial strain. obviously that financial strain is having an impact on their ability to invest in their public health system. and given the threat that zika poses to pregnant women and their babies, now seems like a bad time for investments in public health to be undermined. in fact, this is actually a time when we should be redoubling our efforts to make sure that we can address cases of the zika virus quickly, and try to prevent it from spreading. reporter: are you seeing any impact in new york or florida
regarding the financial hardships of puerto rico? mr. earnest: i think what we have seen is we certainly have seen an increase in the number of people who are leaving puerto rico. i think that's a testament to the difficult economic challenges that are facing the island and those are not at all unrelated to the budgetary challenges that are facing the government. i can't speak to any of the specific tangible impacts that we've seen in any of those two states, but obviously there are a host of concerns that have been raised and that have been exacerbated by congress' failure to act promptly here. we know what needs to be done. the administration put forward a proposal back in october laying out exactly how we could ddress these challenges. fortunately there does seem to be a tenacious bipartisan effort under way to try to resolve those differences. i say tenacious because we've been talking about this for a
long time. but we haven't actually seen any action. but hopefully democrats and republicans will both continue to stay engaged in this effort. because there's a real human toll here that's already being taken as a result of these financial challenges. reporter: the president has refrained from weighing in on the democratic primary. but the vice president hasn't done the same. this morning he told "good morning america" that he thought hillary clinton would become the nominee and go on to win the presidency. did he consult with the white house before making his public preferences known? mr. earnest: i think, again, i had a chance to take a look at the transcript. you have to ask the vice president's office. i don't think that he was doing much more than just making an observation about the math of the race. particularly as it relates to the delegate count. you'd have to ask his office if he intended that as him putting forward hits own -- his own endorsement in the race. reporter: does the white house
feel it's an appropriate time to make endorsements with the delegate mass being what it is? mr. earnest: i don't have anything to say about president obama's plans to weigh in on the race at this point. reporter: ok. on zika, obviously we're -- the white house is concerned that congress isn't doing enough to protect americans. is there a concern that brazil isn't doing enough to protect americans that may be going to he olympics? with the continuing problems we've already seen in brazil. mr. earnest: we know the zick i have russ is much more -- zika virus is much more widespread in brazil than it is in the united states. we've offered our assistance in support to brazil authorities as they try to contain this threat. and they obviously are working very hard to ensure that all of the world class athletes that will be in brazil can do so safely. we obviously would be supportive of any effort that they would undertake to ensure the safety of those who are participating in the games. reporter: has the president or any member of the first family
decided if they'd be atebleding the game? -- attending the games? mr. earnest: we haven't made a decision about the president's summer travel yet. reporter: one last thing on zika. senator flake was saying that $35 million in taxpayer funded studies could have been better spent on things like zika. some people see gee us a's face on toast and -- jesus' face on toast and honeybees on cocaine. does the white house have any response to that? mr. earnest: i think it's pretty pathetic. when we're facing a significant public health crisis as described by our public health experts, that would you see someone try to distract from what is a pretty important issue. i know, you know, i've had an opportunity to meet senator flake on a couple of occasions. he's an honorable guy. he certainly is the kind of person that we would rely on to show some bipartisan leadership, respond to the requests of democratic and
republican governors, respond to the requests of public health professionals and advance the $1.9 billion in funding that is needed to confront the zika virus and do everything we possibly can to protect the american people. i'll leave it there. reporter: a couple different suggests -- subjects. first, zika. the world health organization says the just as important as ebola. what does the white house feel about that? they're calling it a possible pandemic. mr. earnest: we've gone to great lengths to help people understand the difference between the zika virus and the ebola virus. obviously the -- reporter: the level of concern is such that the like ebola. mr. earnest: the viruses are different, the impact they have on people are different. but given the significant risk that we know the zika virus poses to pregnant women and their babies, we believe that urgent action is necessary to
do everything we can to try to protect the american people, especially pregnant women and their babies. there's no reason this has to be a partisan exercise. this should be a commonsense responsibility that republicans in congress should embrace. they ran for congress so they could help run the country. running the country means your top priority should be protecting the american people. this is something that congress can and should do to protect the american people. they're about three months late in doing it. but they need to put a bill on the president's desk before they leave forjet another ecess on memorial day. reporter: next question on zika. where does this administration weigh in on the issue between health officials about the fact that zika is such a threat that people, families may want to delay pregnancies, where does the white house stand on that?
mr. earnest: i think we would weigh in on this by saying that people should consult their doctors and that the kinds of decisions that families are making about either starting or growing their family are decisions that they should make within their family and with the best medical advice that they can get there from their doctors. obviously the c.d.c. and n.i.h. have shared medical information about the risks posed by zika to pregnant women. with doctors all across the country. we have tried to do as much as we possibly can to educate people about what exactly those risks are. and i certainly would encourage people who are thinking about becoming pregnant to consult the c.d.c. website, to consult their doctor and understand exactly what the risks are as they make that decision. reporter: listening to the doctors debate back and forth about it, does the white house view it as an ethical issue not to weigh in on that debate, ecause you're telling people
about planning a family, as this is as serious as you're aying, possible birth defects, for their children? mr. earnest: i think our desire is for people to have access to the best medical information possible. obviously the government is not going to be making decisions for people. particularly had it comes to something as personal as starting or growing your family. but we do want people to have access to the best information they can get as they make that important and very personal decision. reporter: now to another subject. any word from the president, particularly as he drank the water three times and swam, does very any comment about this lawsuit about the mayor's alleged diverting funds in
flint? mr. earnest: i don't have any comment to share from the president about ongoing litigation. the president did have an opportunity when he was in flint to see firsthand the impact this crisis has had on that community. and the president has made clear that he's going to mobilize resources from the federal government to help that local community and that's why you've seen millions of dollars in public health grants go to flint to help doctors and nurses and other public health worksers there deal with the medical fallout of that crisis situation. the president has urged congress to act on funding so that the state of michigan and the city of flint can make the necessary infrastructure investments to protect the people in that community. but, look, the city of flint and the people who live there are enduring a significant challenge. and the president's visit there
last week was an important sign to them that the u.s. president has the back of the people in that community. that are working hard to rebuild that community and he sure that their children can dream as big as ever. reporter: last question, did the president see the picture, did you weigh in, did you talk to him about it? mr. earnest: i haven't spoken to him about it but i have seen news reports about the decision that was made by officials at west point. reporter: [inaudible] mr. earnest: i'm confident the president would not second guess a decision made by those responsible for discipline at west point. reporter: given what a deadly day it was in baghdad, are there any plans for the president or the vice president to reach out to abadi's new leadership? mr. earnest: i don't have any calls to announce at this point. typically when either the president or the vice president is in touch with prime minister abadi, we read out the call after the taken place. i'm sure we'll do that in this case as well.
reporter: given today's political crisis that's ongoing in baghdad, does the white house still believe that abadi is strong? mr. earnest: the administration is still committed, the u.s. government is still committed to supporting prime minister abadi's efforts to reform the political system and to govern that country in an inclusive way. that's the going to be critical to the ability of iraq to secure their country and to face down the threat that is posed by isil. that is the approach that prime minister abadi has pursued, even under unquestionably challenging circumstances. the united states will continue to strongly support prime minister abadi and the iraqi people as they work to unite their country to face down the threat from isil. reporter: do you believe that the political crisis -- i'm sorry, does the white house believe that the political crisis is adding to this insecurity that we're seeing on the streets of baghdad?
mr. earnest: there's no denying that what we see is a chaotic situation in iraq. i suspect that the direction of influence, though, is a little more along the lines of what the laid out which is that instability around the security situation in iraq is making governing that country more challenging. and those are the challenging circumstances i was referring to in terms of prime minister abadi's tenure as prime minister. that certainly is why the united states has been so invested, along with our coalition partners, in trying to stabilize the -- trying to help the iraqi government and the iraqi security forces stabilize the situation inside of iraq. there's a lot of important progress we've made over the last almost two years now in driving isil out of significant populated areas they used to control.
but there obviously is a lot more work to be done. there was a reference earlier to the effort to drive isil out of mosul. that will be a tall order. but the united states and our coalition partners have worked effectively with iraqi security forces to begin the effort to shape that military strategy and we're going to continue to support prime minister abad can as he -- abadi as he pursues a governing agenda that reflects the diversity of the nation of iraq. reporter: something came out during the meeting yesterday, baghdad said that just 14% of territory in iraq is still under the control of isis. do those numbers sound right snow mr. earnest: i haven't seen that specificistic. -- specific statistic. the statistic we view comes from a different perspective. what we've said is that our
coalition working closely with iraqi security forces has driven isil out of about 40% of the populated territory that isil previously controlled. what that says in terms of the overall percentage of the country, i haven't seen a statistic along those lines. so i'd encourage to you check with either the state department or the department of defense to try to confirm that specific statement. but i think the statistic that we have confirmed, i think does illustrate the important progress against isil that's been made, that progress was only possible because of the willingness and courage of iraqi forces that were willing to fight for their country. the weakness that we saw in the iraqi security forces back in the summer of 2014 was a symptom of a lack of a willingness to fight for the entire country. there's a part of those iraqi orces that, based on sectarian
considerations, left them less willing to defend certain parts f their country. working to diversify the command, all of those are positive steps and all of those have contributed to the progress that we've made against isil thus far. it's a testament to prime minister abadi's leadership, that he was able to do that. under some very difficult and challenging circumstances. but, look, it's also understandable that there would be some impatience on the part of the iraqi people and other figures in the iraqi government about the security situation there. prime minister abadi has clearly made this a priority and the american government and the united states military and the 65 nations who are part of our coalition have been strongly supportive of prime minister abadi's efforts and
pleased with the important progress that's been made over the last year and a half or so. reporter: quickly on syrian refugees. does the president get updates on the numbers of refugees that processed into the u.s.? do you still believe that 10,000 is roughly the number that are going to be taken in this year? mr. earnest: the president does receive periodic updates about the progress that's being made to accomplish the goal that he laid out i believe at the end of last year, to take in 10,000 syrian refugees during this fiscal year. there are reports indicating that we've got some work to do to meet that goal. the president's made clear that both publicly and privately, that this is a priority. and the national security officials that are responsible for implementing this program understand exactly what the commander in chief's priorities are. the president acknowledged that
this would be a challenging goal to meet. in part because individuals who enter the united states through the refugee program are subjected to more background checks and screenings than anybody else who enters the united states. the president was clear that we would meet this goal without cutting any corners when it comes to security. i think that describes the nature of the challenge facing those who are implementing this program. but the president is serious about meeting this goal. and there's a lot of work to do o make that a reality. reporter: interesting piece by "the post." director clapper who said among other things about the battle to retake mosul, you committed it's a tall order, he said he didn't think it could be accomplished within the time
frame under this administration. how much of a surprise is that to you and is that something that the president anticipates? mr. earnest: the president has talked about this. he's been focused on the kind of shaping operations that i described earlier. and the goal that we've laid out is to try and put in place the conditions by the end of the year of where mosul could be retaken. so that is the goal that we're aiming for. obviously all of this work is being led by the iraqi central government and the iraqi security forces. but the united states and the rest of the international community has bought in on this strategy. and the groundwork is being laid even as we speak. this is a tall order. this is the second largest city in iraq. this is going to be a big challenge. obviously it would be and willing a significant strategic accomplishment -- will be a significant strategic accomplishment once that city has been retaken. reporter: he didn't think the
u.s. could fix it. talking about the grander problems that are prevalent. not just on the ground but systemic problems that are there. what does the president think of that? mr. earnest: he agrees whole heartedly. this is a problem that the iraqi people are going to have to solve when it comes to addressing the challenges in their own country. we've tried the path of the united states trying to impose a solution on these countries that are facing so much turmoil and violence. that didn't work out very well. it didn't work out very well for the united states or for the iraqi people either. so we need to pursue a strategy where we are empowering the iraqi government, the iraqi security forces, and the iraqi people, to confront successfully the problems that are plaguing their own nation. reporter: the president then would you say also agrees with his assessment that we should be there because leaving would create a problem as well? mr. earnest: the president believes that at this point in time we should be actively supporting the efforts of prime minister abadi to unite his
country to face down the threat from isil. we cannot afford to take the risk of allowing isil to fill a security vacuum. we know that that would have a direct and negative impact on our -- on the united states' national security. so we take this quite seriously. i think it would explain why the president has ordered more than 12,000 air strikes against isil targets in iraq and in syria, it's why the president has given his meltary orders to implement a strategy to build up the capacity of iraqi security forces to degrade and ultimately destroy isil. the also why we pursued the other elements of our strategy, to shut down isil's financing and stop the flow of foreign fighters. all in an effort to destroy isil. because we know that the consequences of allowing isil to establish a safe haven inside of iraq would be dire. both for the united states, but for our partners and allies around the world. reporter: based on that, should the american people receive as
a message that it's going as expected? mr. earnest: i think the american people can be confident that the commander in chief understands what's necessary to protect the american people. they can also be confident that president obama understands that getting the united states directly involved on the front lines of a ground war in the middle east where the united states has committed tens of thousands of ground troupes in a -- troops in a combat operation, would be a bad idea and contrary to our interests. reporter: i meant, based on whaurp saying, some of the things you pointed out, as successes, should the american people then take from that that the president feels like it's going as it should be? mr. earnest: i think people can be confident that the president recognizes the stakes, that people can be confident that the president believes that we have made important progress. but i think we can also be confident and the american people can be confident that what the president expects to
do is to make -- continue this progress through the eight months that are remaining and present the next president with a path toward accomplishing this broader goal. but the going to require the united states to continue to support the abadi-led government that's committed to an inclusive agenda and the also going to require continuing to engage the rest of the international community in this effort. this is not something that the united states can or will do alone. but we will play a leading role in leading an international coalition to destroy isil and under president obama's leadership, that's exactly what we've done. reporter: last one. would the president consider backing an idea of partitioning the country? mr. earnest: there are obviously people that have floated this idea in a variety of con techs -- contexts, including even the vice president in his presidential campaign eight years ago.
what our policy and our belief continues to be, that iraq will be most successful in their fight against isil if they can succeed in uniting that country to face down the security hreat that isil poses. we believe that iraq is -- nger when the ewe newt it's united. that's why -- i think the best evidence we have of this is that president abadi's predecessor, prime minister maliki, zpw pursue a rather ctarian governing agenda and the vulnerabilities in that agenda were laid bare when you saw iraqi security forces that were charged with protecting that country essentially melt away when isil began their initial assault on their country.
that's why the president essentially made a precondition of robust u.s. military involvement in the counter-isil effort in iraq, that the iraqi people elect and support a prime minister bhoast committed to reforming the -- who's committed to reforming the government and pursuing the kind of inclusive governing agenda that would unite the country to face the threat. that's exactly what prime minister abadi has done. that's why the u.s. government has been supportive of his efforts to do, so that's why we continue to stand with the iraqi people in this very difficult time. reporter: zika. there's money taken from the emergency fund, might be the ebola fund, what's the status of that? is it your position that that money is going to run out soon and there's no other opportunity to tap into that same fund if congress doesn't come up with something? mr. earnest: our posture on this has been that using that
money was essentially a last resort, to try and do as much as we possibly can to protect the american people from the zika virus. but what our public health rofessionals have said is that that money, about $600 million, was insufficient to fund all of the things that the federal government can and should be doing to try to prepare for the onset of the zika virus. reporter: there's no more money in that fund, there's no more money available from that emergency fund to the administration? mr. earnest: we can check with o.m.b. on this. i think what itly is -- what it actually is, is we take as much money from that as we can without undermining the important public health work they're already doing. we didn't want to be in a situation where we were essentially limiting all of the fundsing to fight ebola, to try to come back and fight zika. because that would be a pretty
unwise decision as well. so what we've done is basically taken as much money as we possibly can without totally gutting the ebola program, to direct it toward zika. now, to succeed against ebola we're going to need that money to be repaid and to be repaid quickly. we need congress to act on that as well. i don't want them to think this is money that was just sitting around with nothing to do. this was money that was available, that we could use toward zika, without undermining the ebola effort, but we need the ebola effort to be fully funded as well. i think everybody who covered this white house in the fall of 2014 would acknowledge that we're not going to take ebola lightly and that would be a bad decision for the country. reporter: in iraq, following the breach of the green zone, what has been done by the united states to make sure that -- and are you confident that that will not happen again? there are reports that iraqi security forces basically left
these protesters in, there was some concern about the american embassy and that there's been a dozen or more marines sent in. what's the administration's level of concern about that embassy and who is responsible support -- and who is responsible for that? mr. earnest: obviously the nation of iraq has obble gail gations to protect all -- has obligations to protect all of the diplomatic facilities on their soil. and we have received assurances from the iraqi government that they understand that that's their obligation. in addition to that, the state department has ordered some steps to ensure that the embassy, the u.s. embassy in baghdad is secure. i think for obvious reasons i won't be able to detail all of the security precautions that have been taken. the safety and security of our diplomats serving the united states around the world is the president's top priority. his has made clear to team that all the necessary
steps that need to be taken to ensure their safety at the embassy in baghdad are taken. i'm confident that the state department has done that. reporter: given the continued violence there, again, the concern about embassies everywhere, in light of the benghazi situation and because that's become a political issue the administration is confident that that embassy, that leaving the primary responsibility to the iraqis, is sufficient? mr. earnest: every nation has an obligation to safeguard the diplomatic facilities that are on the country's soil. the united states, for example, has an obligation to ensure the safety and security of foreign diplomats that are serving here in the united states. we take that obligation seriously. and we obviously expect that other countries around the world take that obligation seriously. but of course at u.s. diplomatic facilities all around the world, there are united states marine corps service members who are standing guard. and the president takes that security quite seriously.
but that certainly does not be a solve local governments of the responsibility that they have to ensure the safety and security of our diplomats as well. reporter: one more. on this issue of the president and the press that's been out there lately. the american presidency project in santa barbara did an analysis that shows that president obama's had fewer press conferences, on pace to have fewer press conferences, than his previous two predecessors and the monthly and average rate he's been doing these at are less than his three previous predecessors. is that correct? mr. earnest: i think there are a lot of different ways to slice and dies these number. obviously -- dice these numbers. obviously the president was out here five days ago doing a news conference with all of you. standing at this podium. he does them with some regularity. there are a lot of different ways to slice and dice the numbers here. reporter: formal press conferences, briefing appearances, joint press conferences with other world leaders. i believe it's a fairly
credible institution. but the point is that, by a couple different measurements, the president's been much less cessible to the press than his previous predecessors. and of course there's still time to go. but you don't see it that way or he doesn't see it that way? mr. earnest: i think the president's done a lot of news conferences. it certainly is your job, as you sit here in the briefing room and as you cover the president every day, to advocate for more access to the president and for more news conferences and more opportunities to ask him questions. we certainly understand that's part of your job and that's rt of the give and take that characterizes the relationship between the white house and the white house press corpses for at least one century, probably two. i think what is also true is that this president has done more one-on-one interviews with reporters, both from the white house and from other places,
than any he of his predecessors. i think that's a testament to the president's desire to try to engage with independent professional journalists who are interested in understanding exactly what he's doing. i don't take any exception to your advocacy for more access to the president. that certainly is part of your job description. reporter: is there any white house response to growing complaints about the t.s.a. and the long lines at airport security checkpoints lately, with the summer travel season nearing? mr. earnest: i'm not aware of any specific white house order that's been issued on this. i do know that the t.s.a. certainly takes very seriously the responsibility that they have to protect our aviation system. but also to minimize the inconvenience to u.s. travelers.
so they're mindful of the responsibility that they have. certainly some of the challenges that they're facing right now could be alleviated if they got all of the funding that we would like to see them have. once again, a problem that people have noticed can be traced back pretty directly to the inability of republicans in congress to govern the country. what i also know that the t.s.a. has done is they've brought on additional staff, including those with some management expertise, to try to address some of these problems, given the resource constraints that they're operating under. reporter: i alts also wanted to ask about the national bill that the president signed on mop. were there any white house deliberations on honoring the north american bison among all other mammals, including people, i guess? [laughter] mr. earnest: that's an interesting question.
i can tell you that there was a robust legislative effort on the part of the white house on this one. we were determined not to get buffaloed on this. reporter: i did not set him up. [laughter] mr. earnest: but obviously this is a piece of legislation that's passed through the congress and i would anticipate the president would sign it. reporter: i wonder if you saw that "new york times" story yesterday about mrs. clinton promising to get to the bottom of the u.f.o. and area 51 conspiracies. or i wondered if the president would like to beat her to the nch by showing his degree of transparency on this issue, which is of concern to a lot of americans. [laughter] mr. earnest: i have to admit, i don't have a tab in my briefing book for area 51 today. maybe it has. part of a grand conspiracy. i don't -- i'm not aware of any plans that the president has to make public any information about this. but --
reporter: do you feel he's gotten to the bottom of it? mr. earnest: i know has he -- he has joked publicly before about one of the benefits of the presidency is having access to that information. i don't know if he's availed himself of that opportunity. if we have more on this, we'll let you know. [laughter] reporter: did the president's meeting with the secretary of treasury this afternoon mostly about puerto rico or can you give us insight into what they talked about? mr. earnest: this is part of the regular -- i believe it's a biweekly meeting that the president has with the secretary of the terry. i anticipate high on the agenda will be getting a read out from secretary lue about his trip to puerto rico. i just described to you some of what secretary lue saw firsthand when he visited puerto rico. i would anticipate he'll talk with the president a little bit more about that as well. i would also anticipate that some other -- that other
budgetary issueses will be on the agenda as well. once that meeting concludes, we'll see if we can get you more details about what they discussed. reporter: following up on the line of questioning about brazil. there's a very real possibility that there could for some time be two brazilian presidents concurrently. one interim president and one suspended president. w would the administration handle relations with brazil if that does come to pass? mr. earnest: we would follow the traditions and the laws of brazil and, again, what i understand about this process comes entirely from reading news accounts of what's happening there. or almost entirely of news accounts from what's happening there. and the way that i understand is process works is that the -- if the vote in the senate goes the way that many people are predicting, then the president would step aside while the charges against her
are heard by the appropriate legislative body. and the current vice president would assume the constitutional wers of the presidency until such time as the allegations against the president are resolved. that's my understanding about the way the process works. the u.s. government and our diplomats who are serving in brazil would engage with the brazilian government according to their rules and traditions. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] >> madam secretary. we proudly give 72 of our delegate votes to the next president of the united states.
we need a real unification of our party. after a tough primary, that's going to take some effort. we are committed to putting that effort in. i want to be a part of that unifying process so that we're at full strength this fall, so that we can win this election. we cannot afford to keep the liberal obama agenda going. we have to be at full strength so we can win this election and that is why we have to go through the actual effort and process of unifying. reporter: you've been very vocal on your differences of policy with donald trump. what do you need to hear from him at some point to fully endorse him? is there a situation -- mr. ryan: these are conversations we're going to have. i don't really know him. i met him once in person in 2012, we had a very good conversation in march on the phone. we just need to get to know each other. we as a leadership team are enjoying the fact that we have
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