tv [untitled] May 12, 2016 7:01pm-8:01pm EDT
proposed deal, quote, will lead to a nuclear armed iran. that of course has not turned out to be true. and in fact we can verify that that is false. so congresswoman lummis serves on the committee. why don't we swear her in and explain where she got this information. and she can explain whether she was just wrong or lying. she may also explain why she continues to make this argument. i don't know what the protocol is for swearing in members of the united states senate to participate in these kinds of hearings, but there are any number of senators who could participate. senator cruz could certainly participate. in he claimed in august of 2015 , over $100 billion will flow into iran as a result of the deal. we've got senator tom cotton, who i know has a special
relationship with the supreme leader, so maybe he's got some interesting insight into the deal that he'd like to share with the committee, he said that the deal would, quote, give them, meaning iran, $150 billion of sanctions relief. not true. senator cotton, wildly wrong or lying. and so let's have chairman chaffetz get to the bottom of this. maybe the american people do want to actually understand the republican false narrative about the iran deal. we would welcome the opportunity for those members of congress to explain themselves. the truth is, what the administration has said about the iran deal, what mr. rhodes has said about the iran deal, what the president of the united states has said about the iran deal has come true. our critics said that iran would never go along with an agreement. they did. they signed on the dotted line. our critics said that there would never be a way to verify that iran would live up to the terms of the agreement.
we know they did. international impartial inspectors did exactly that and they were given the access they needed to confirm that iran has lived up to their end of the bargain. and our critics said, and just recited many of them, that iran would get, as steve scalise, who could also testify, said, that iran would get hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief. that's false. that's not true. even iran says that that's not true. in fact, they're saying that they are hoping that they can et access to more money. so, again, i don't know whether our critics were just wildly misinformed, mistaken or lying, but if republicans are interested in getting to the bottom of this, they should swear in some member of their own conference and figure it out. reporter: i take that as a no. [laughter] mr. earnest: well. i think there are some people who have some explaining to do. when it comes to the wildly false accusations that they made about the iran deal. and the not the administration,
the republicans, who are demonstrably wrong when it comes to the iran deal. we'll look at the letter, but i assume that all of these -- if congressman chaffetz is interested in getting to the bottom of this deal, then i assume that similar letters were received through the interoffice mail in the house of representatives. reporter: one quick follow-up on that. you've taken issue with the more than -- the predictions of more than $100 billion in sanctions relief. do you know how much has actually resulted in? mr. earnest: we know it's a whole lot less than that. what we had said in the context of the deal before it went through, that the kind of benefit that iran was likely to enjoy was something around $50 billion. but even a significant chunk of that money was committed to repaying debts that iran owed. that's why you saw iran's central bank governor come out
and indicate that their expectations about the amount of sanctions relief they would receive was around $30 billion. i don't have an updated assessment to share in terms of the amount that they have actually received. but it is, by all accounts, far ess than the false criticism that was put forward by republicans. reporter: any reaction now that brazil has been suspended, from the senate? mr. earnest: not any one that's different than i've shared here a couple of times. this is an outcome many observers expected. the president does continue to have confidence in the durability of brazil's democratic constitutions, to with stand the political turmoil there. reporter: anyone in the white house reaching out to the acting president? mr. earnest: i'm not aware of any calls placed by the white house to the acting president's office. but you might check with the
state department to see if there have been any sort of diplomatic conversations. reporter: on the global -- [inaudible] -- that president obama spoke about with australia. the readout said last night, we saw the comments from usgr last month. does this suggest there's some new white house initiative that might be going on, a broader initiative, to tackle this? mr. earnest: i think what both the ambassador and the president made clear in those statements is that the united states is working both bilaterally and through multilateral institutions, including the oecd, to build a policy consensus on addressing the access capacity -- exs capacity in the steel market and our industries as well. so we're going to continue to pursue vigorous international engagement as part of a broader
effort that includes aggressive enforcement right here at home. so, for instance, the government has initiated an historic number of trade remedy proceedings in 2015 assessing more than $45 million in penalties on importers of steel products for violating their obligation to pay anti-dumping and countervailing duties. so the enforcement of these rules is something that the administration takes quite seriously. and it's also an important part of our foreign policy. so when president obama is on the phone with world leaders, including the leader of australia, we're talking about a range of issues. we're talking about national security issues, broader economic issues, and and the importance of addressing something azteccal as excess capacity in steel. -- as technical as excess capacity in steel. i think those who follow this issue closely will recognize that that's not a particularly
surprising development. but for those who don't, this should be a revealing look at the priority that the president places on enforcing trade agreements. reporter: also, the prime minister told the press in australia that obama advised im that the new time frame for t.p.p. would be at the end of the year, after the election. that sort of contradicts what president obama said in germany. he said he thought it could be done after the primary. does the white house see the new congressional window for t.p.p., is it now in the lame duck? mr. earnest: i don't have any more information to share about the conversation between the prime minister and president obama. our view is that congress should act as quickly as possible to implement this
agreement. that delaying the implementation of the agreement only puts off the significant benefits that american businesses and american workers can enjoy as a result of the agreement. for example, once this deal is implemented, we'll get about the work of cutting 18,000 taxes that other countries impose on american goods. so the longer that congress delays the implementation of the t.p.p., the longer american businesses and american goods will be subject to these 18,000 taxes that other countries impose on american products. so, the good news is that many republicans on capitol hill share the president's view that cutting those taxes would be good for the american economy. and that it would be good for american businesses and it would be good for american workers. so we're going to work with those republicans to identify the most expeditious time frame possible for congress to do the work that's necessary to
mplement this agreement. reporter: i want to ask about merrick garland's upcoming speech at a high school commencement. a little unusual for a supreme court nominee. i'm wondering if he's going to be specifically addressing the nomination during his speech? mr. earnest: he will not. he'll be specifically addressing the class of 2016 at nice west. obviously he's an -- niles west. obviously he's an alum of that fine institution. the e was invited by principal of the school to deliver the commencement address. obviously that community and that high school in particular is quite proud of the accomplishments of what probably is now their most famous graduate. and so it seemed like a good opportunity for him to address the class of 2016 and i had an opportunity to talk to him about this a couple of weeks ago.
i know that he's very much looking forward to going back and reliving some old high school memories, but also having an opportunity hopefully to impart some wisdom and inspiration to the class of 2016. reporter: any more details on what -- the subjects he's going to speak about during that? mr. earnest: no. you'll have to show up and find out. should be fun. reporter: -- [inaudible] -- suspended from office for the duration of her impeachment trials. her vice president became the acting president with authority to appoint, enact policy. how does the u.s. government view this impeachment process, and also, what does the white house expect from this new government? will president obama call the acting president?
mr. earnest: i'm not aware of any planned calls but if a call like that were to take place, we'd let you know. as a government, we intend to respect the government institutions and traditions and procedures that the brazilian government follows for governing that country. that's what we would expect other countries to do when they're observing our legislative process, for example, all too often the legislative process here in the united states doesn't work nearly as rapidly as we would like. there may be other countries who get a little frustrated about that kind of inaction. but we assure them that invariably the president's pretty frustrated by how slow that process works as well. our expectation is that we're going to follow the rules and laws and institutions of the united states government in handling the affairs of the united states. and is he learnry are going to respect the brazilian government as they follow the rules and traditions for governing their country. that's what we'll do.
reporter: one more question. the white house said brazil has a mature democracy. today the acting president said that brazil has a young democracy. [inaudible] does the government, the u.s. government have -- [inaudible] -- this impeachment process is following the brazilian laws? mr. earnest: i certainly am no expert on the brazilian constitution. but our expectation is that the institutions of the brazilian government that have been built up over the last few decades are sufficient lima tour and durable to with stand the political turmoil that that country's facing right now. that is not to down play the obvious significance of the events of the last few weeks. but it is an effort to convey to the brazilian government and to the brazilian people that the united states values the
important relationship that our two countries have. we cooperate on a wide range of issues. the president had the opportunity to visit brazil in his first term. and that was an opportunity for him to state affirmatively early in his presidency about the importance of the relationship between our two countries, that of course was renewed when president rue self visited the white house not -- rusef visited the white house not too long ago. the united states will stand with brazil, even through these challenging times, and we continue to have confidence in the capacity of the government to rely on their well-established traditions and laws, to manage their way through this challenging time. for their country's politics. james. nice to see you today. it's been a while. reporter: yes, sir. three subjects i want to cover very quickly on each one. first, the remarks this week by the f.b.i. director james comey in a briefing to reporters at the bureau in which he once again described what he has
alternately termed the ferguson effect and the viral video effect, previously when he discussed those matters it led to direct rebuke from the white house, both from this podium and you and from the president himself. but the f.b.i. director appears to be doubling down on those comments in his most recent statement to reporters saying, and i quote, there's a perception that police are less likely to do the marginal additional policing that suppresses crime, that getting out of your carat 2:00 in the morning and saying to a group of guys, hey, what are you doing here, unquote, i take it that at the time since this was last an issue between the white house and director comey, in october and november last year, nothing has arisen in crime statistics or any other external phenomena to cause the white house to now side with director comey in interpreting these events. mr. earnest: i anticipateed that somebody might ask this question today. i think it's certainly a relevant one. i had an opportunity to talk to the president about it a little
bit this morning. so, what i can tell you is that we have observed over the last year or so an uptick in some communities across the country in violent crime rates. that's a source of some concern. last year, when this potential trend was first noticed, the president tasked his attorney supporting the law enforcement agencies in those communities to help them the challenge of fighting that increase in crime. there are a number of steps the department of justice has taken. they announced that the u.s. marshall service had conducted a high-impact national fugitive apprehension initiative that was focused on the country's
most violent offender. that resulted in the arrests of gang members, violent criminals. that's an indication of the important role that federal law enforcement can play in supporting the work of local law enforcement in these communities. what's also true, though, is rates re broadly crime across the country remain at or near historic los. -- lows, so the challenge for the department of justice has been to try to focus on those communities where the uptick has been noticed and try to blunt the impact of that. as it relates to getting to the undermining cause of those upticks in violence, there still is no evidence to substantiate the claim that the increase in slilet crime is related to an unwillingness of
police officers to do their job. i know that this is an observation that the fraternal order of police has made in indicating that they don't believe that their members are afraid to get out of their cars and do their jobs. the president's point is that as we consider policy approaches to addressing those communities where we've seen an uptick in violent crime, we need to be making policy decisions that are based on facts and evidence, and not anecdotes. reporter: what we have before us then is the spectacle of the f.b.i. director twice in six months before the national press making assertions about crime and incidences of crime that are in the view of the white house based not on the facts or the evidence but on anecdotes and doing so in a very public way. the resulting question is, why this doesn't shake your confidence in the f.b.i. director?
mr. earnest: i think in part because the f.b.i. director actually made clear that he what was exactly going on either. i think, look, the fact is, this is a complicated issue. that's exactly the way that he described it. he said, why does dallas see a dramatic spike and houston doesn't? he acknowledged he continued saying, it's a complicated, hard issue but the stakes couldn't be higher. later on he said, i don't know for sure what's going on. but something has happened. clearly it has. we just need to make sure that our policy approach to addressing this situation is rooted in evidence and facts and director comey has indicated, and i think this was sort of part of the reason that this discussion arose, is that director comey indicated that he was seeking out additional information and additional evidence about what was exactly happening in these communities. but it's clear that we don't have enough evidence at this point to claim that police officers are not doing their jobs is the reason for this uptick.
i think the president's concern, actually, is really cused on rebuking this false choice between protecting civil rights and fighting crime. the truth is the vast majority of law enforcement officers that put on the uniform every day do both. they both are committed to fighting crime and doing it in a fair way. the best law enforcement agencies have made clear and have put in place policies that actually make it easier for their officers to pursue their job, to fight crime and to do it in a fair way. and so the president's quite interested at a federal level of figuring out what additional support can be provided by the federal government to local law enforcement agencies as they pursue both tasks. fighting crime but also protecting civil rights. reporter: two other subjects much more quickly, i hope. returning to iran and ben rhodes. did mr. rhodes seek approval from anyone in the white house
management before agreeing to allow mr. samuels of the "new york times" magazine to shadow him and quote him as he did? mr. earnest: there was a decision made by the white house to cooperate with mr. samuels. reporter: that decision involved individuals aside from rhodes himself. mr. earnest: correct. reporter: has mr. rhodes been rebuked by anyone in the white house management structure following the publication of that article? mr. earnest: not that i'm aware of. he's served this white house and president with distinction. there's true when you consider he led the effort to open up a diplomatic channel with the cubans, to bring about an effort to normalize relations between our two countries. mr. rhodes was at the forefront of our policy effort to transform our diplomatic relationship with burma and to encourage the democracy that was forming there. he's also played a leading role in trying to establish these programs that are focused on
cultivating young leaders in regions across the country in helping them, giving them access to the united states and cementing our relationship with them. ben has had a very broad policy portfolio at the white house and he's carried out his responsibilities honorably and with distinction and i think everybody here at the white house is quite proud to work with mr. rhodes. reporter: no one has told him that they considered his comments in "the new york times" magazine article to have been ill-advised? mr. earnest: not that i'm aware of. reporter: last question on him and following up on the earlier questions. i take it from your comments in saying that you're reviewing the letter from congressman chaffetz, that the white house is not reflexively asserting an executive privilege claim with respect to this request. mr. earnest: that's right. reporter: last subject. both you and the president have , for a long time now, months now, jettisoned the standard posture of white house officials and the white house
press briefing with respect to the opposing party's nominating process. normally, it's been my experience in washington, the white house waits until there's a number nominee for the other party, doesn't weigh into the process, doesn't comment on specific candidates or what they have to say. and says typically the time will come for that. that posture has been jettisoned here for months now with respect to donald trump. long before he cleared the field in his party. one of the sets of comments by the president and others here has been to the effect that mr. trump's candidacy is already creating a great deal of consternation amongst foreign leaders. and allies of the united states. w.h.o. are supposedly convey -- who are supposedly conveying these sentiments and concerns to the white house and the state department and so on. put very simply, does president obama view that the election of donald trump to the presidency would constitute a direct threat to the national security of the united states?
mr. earnest: let me say it this way. president obama has been asked on a number of occasions to weigh in on mr. trump's candidacy and i think more often than not, the president has shared his opinions on this. what i have tried to do is to choose my moments carefully. d making a point about the impact of the election on the ability of president obama to do his job. i've also made clear that president obama's priority is focused on protecting the important progress that we've made over the last seven or eight years. and his interest in the election is rooted in the idea that he wants his successor to be somebody who is committed to building on that progress and not tearing it down. that's the way that he has engaged in the debate so far and the president has certainly
expressed concerns in the past about some of the rhetoric that a number of republican presidential candidates have used. and the president has observed that those kinds of comments and that kind of rhetoric does have an impact on our national security and certainly has an impact on our standing in the world. it certainly has an impact on our relationships with other countries and the president has observed that it's not at all unusual for world leaders to ask questions about comments that were uttered on the campaign trail. it clearly is having an impact. but i'll let the president at the next opportunity he has to take questions choose to describe what impact he believes electing mr. trump would have on our national security. reporter: speak for yourself then. do you see him as a threat to national security? mr. earnest: i try to choose my spots. i don't think i'm blog choose this one. -- i'm going to choose this
one. reporter: to follow up on that. donald trump has met with republican leaders throughout the day here in washington. speaker ryan. they've come out of these meetings and described him as productive and that are uniting around their core principles. that's what they're saying publicly. to deny what she say is a third obama administration. is there anything that the white house or allies to the white house that democrats are now falling behind now that it seems some of the republicans are -- [inaudible] -- trying to coalesce around trump? mr. earnest: you certainly have etter informed, more experienced and surely higher paid analysts that can examine the fault lines of the republican party. but even as a novice, i suspect at, well, look, even the joint statement that i read today from speaker ryan and the
republican nominee, were you sumptive nominee, indicate that this was merely their first meeting. so i'm certainly not surprised to hear that. i think what i find to be interesting about this process is that speaker ryan has described his view that the entire republican party, including the presidential -- presumptive presidential nominee, should rally behind the agenda that speaker ryan has put forward. i think the reason that he may be encountering some difficulties is that he's the speaker of the house. he should already be using the responsibility that he has to implement that agenda. and that is not at all what republicans have done. that certainly is not what leader mcconnell has done on the senate side and it's not what speaker ryan has done on the house side. there are any number of important critical prirmentes -- priorities that republicans could be focused on in the
house of the representatives right now and in the united states senate that are important part of the job they have right now. unfortunately republicans seem much more focused on the elections than they do on embracing the responsibility to deal with the results of the last elections. that gave them the a scombloort in the united states congress -- them a majority in the united states congress. right now we see republicans much more focused on their relationship with the presumptive nominee than they are on things like passing a budget or passing funding for the zika virus, to avert a public health disaster. or passing much-needed funding to relieve the financial turmoil on puerto rico that's having a negative impact on three million americans who live there. we certainly haven't seen any action in either house of congress on funding programs to fight opioid addiction. we see the house trying to take victory laps on legislation that doesn't actually provide any money to ensure that anybody, any more people can get access to treatment. if republicans had much
conviction about their agenda, they'd be trying to implement it now as opposed to trying to convince other members of the republican party or the presumptive republican nominee that what they propose is the right thing to do. if they thought it was the right thing to do, why wouldn't they be trying to implement it right now? all of the things that i've just outlined are things that republicans at one point or another have indicated is a priority to them and all of those are things that i have said president obama believes are a priority. in fact, we have been working hard to try to cajole congress budget, to act on zika, to act on puerto rico, to act on opioids. but they haven't. so i think that's why there might be skepticism, both inside the republican party and outside the republican party, that republicans actually do have a governing agenda. because they've had an opportunity to present it and implement it and they haven't done it. in fact, on this scorecard that i've just laid out, they haven't done anything. reporter: do you think it's a just a show, i mean, a show of
unity? do you think it's genuine? is f-35 it is, does that signal -- if it is, does that signal something that's more dangerous in the administration's point of view? mr. earnest: i don't know anybody here who is going to lose any sleep over the meeting. reporter: going back to -- you mentioned zika funding. we've talked about brazil. with the summer games, in light of what's happening in brazil with the impeachment proceedings starting with the outgoing zika crisis outbreak in brazil, will that impact the president's potential decision to attend the summer games? and also, does the president and the white house believe the olympics should be moved or delayed from brazil? mr. earnest:. no the white house doesn't have any -- mr. earnest: no. the white house doesn't have that view. we're going to be strongly supportive of our friends in brazil as they tackle the significant challenge they're facing right now. we've talked about the support that we've offered in terms of confronting this public health challenge related to the zika
virus. and there is some assistance the united states has already provided. we stand ready to provide additional assistance as needed to help brazil fight zika. we do that because, as we learned from ebola, our investments in the capacity that other countries have to confront public health challenges ultimately has an impact on the public health and well-being and safety of the american people. so we know that the preponderance of the zika virus is much more intense than brazil. so we certainly stand ready to help them confront that challenge. as it relates to the olympics, -- hosting the summer olympics is a significant undertaking for any country. thank chooses to a-- that chooses to assume that challenge. the truth is, the world is rooting for brazil to succeed.
in hosting a games that go off without a hitch. ultimately we want to be supportive of the effort of the brazilians to host the games where the venues are ready and the games take place safely and securely and where we get to see the world's best athletes compete. we're certainly rooting for brazil to succeed. until it comes down to the actual competition in which case, we're going to be cheering for the americans. [laughter] reporter: on -- obviously the president's been outspoken about gun violence and he was -- he spoke out when the incident with trayvon martin happened. i'm curious if the white house has a reaction to george zimmerman, the killer of trayvon martin, auctioning off or trying to auction off the gun that was used to kill trayvon martin online, it
appears that's been taken down, ut any reaction to zimmerman trying to profit off that? mr. earnest: i don't have a reaction to it. reporter: one last follow-up for you. i'm pretty sure you're going to give a few more details on the state dinner. white urious, does the house feel it was getting a five for one deal with the -- [inaudible] -- when it comes to state dinners, there's that one-on-one attention. for those who perceive that this could be a snub or be perceived as a snub, your thoughts on the reaction to the fact that you're getting this five for one deal? mr. earnest: this is an opportunity for the president to repay the hospitality that he enjoyed when he traveled to europe a year or two ago. and met with the nordic leaders in europe. the united states obviously has an important relationship with these five countries. for those of you scoring along at home, this is sweden,
norway, finland, iceland and denmark. these are all countries that the united states has important working relationships with. so there are a range of issues related to the economy and to national security that the president will surely discuss with his counterparts. there's an opportunity to talk about climate change. these countries in some cases are dealing with more persistent and severe impacts than we are here in the lower 48. and demonstrating our ongoing commitment to implementing the international agreement to fight carbon pollution will also be a subject of some discussion. the president and first lady are quite proud to host the leaders of these countries here at the white house tomorrow. and it will be filled with all the pomp and circumstance that we typically reserve for countries with whom the united states has important relationships.
the united states certainly has important relationships that are worth investing in with these five countries. reporter: a follow-up on the trump question. a minute ago when you were answering questions about donald trump. you sounded perhaps a bit and you were im citing problems within the republican party. the fact remains that he has won more republican votes during the primary process than anyone else. mr. earnest: as he frequently repeats on television. reporter: well, it's true. are you taking him seriously enough? is the white house taking him seriously enough? are you being too dismissive of him? mr. earnest: look, first of all, i think that's a question that can primarily be posed to the democratic candidates for president. because they are the ones who are competing in the election. based on the robust, competitive primary process that has been -- has unfolded on the democratic side, it seems unclear that both
democratic candidates take their potential republican opponent quite seriously. the president himself stood at this podium last friday and talked about how the stakes of this election were quite significant. and it shouldn't be reduced to a reality television program, but rather should be subject to an intense debate around the issues and around the challenges that the next president will have to confront on behalf of the country. the president certainly takes this quite seriously. as i mentioned in response to james' question, the president's principle concern here is, we've worked really hard to dig ourselves out of a terrible economic hole over the last seven years. the president's worked hard to rebuild our relationship with our allies and partners around the world in a way that advances our interests and strengthens our national security. and the president doesn't want to see that eroded. in fact, he wants to make sure that he's succeeded by a president who recognizes that progress and is committed to building on it.
the president's going to be engaged in the campaign for that reason. the president understands the stakes of this election. i think that means that everybody's participating in the election should be taken seriously. reporter: this unity, whatever ou want to call it, you said -- nobody's worried about it, you don't take that seriously, that these leaders have come together that they do have and perhaps it's an advantage because their nominee has been determined before the democrats? six months from now, if we're talking about this, there's a lot of -- it could be a whole bit of evidence to suggest that the white house didn't take this seriously enough. mr. earnest: i think that the people who primarily should take this seriously are the competitors in the election. and president obama is keenly
aware of the significant stakes of the outcome of the next election. i assure you that over the next six months the president will be actively engaged in that debate. he looks forward to his opportunity to engage more deeply. i think my point is, again, you guys have far more experienced, far better sourced and far better paid analysts who can offer up their own insight about the disruption within the republican party. but i would just point out that even in the supposed statement of unity, there's an observation that we will be having additional discussions. and the statement closes by indicating that this was merely -- this was our first meeting. i don't think -- there's more work to be done there. i think that's evident from the statement that the two men issued. reporter: on the schedule today, i don't think there's anything public on the schedule about what he's doing.
the schedule this week, there was the national security meeting and bill signing. it feels to me like, again, in my limited experience here, that it's relatively light. while you were very critical of what the republicans aren't doing on zika and garland and other things, can you give us any morin sight as to what the president is doing on any of these issues? nothing being said publicly about what it is that he's doing. what else is he doing today? mr. earnest: he has a little bit of a lighter day than usual today. principally because he's got a very busy day tomorrow with five world leaders who he will be hosting here at the white house. i also point out the president is going to deliver his commencement address on sunday over the weekend. this is the 250th commencement exercises of that fine institution and the president's looking forward to speaking to. it he also has a speech he has to work on.
he's going to spend time working on that speech for sunday as well. reporter: he has speech writers, doesn't he? mr. earnest: yes, but as april noted, the president tends to spend quite a bit more time on these commencement addresses because he takes them quite personally. the president is being ably assisted by a couple members of his speech writing team. but he's putting a lot of his own time and energy into this. reporter: in terms of information in his public schedule, he's not being less transparent or slowing down or he's not leaving it all on the floor in the final months? it's just a clerical thing perhaps that the schedule doesn't reveal as much? mr. earnest: i think i acknowledged that the president's schedule today was a little bit quieter. that reflects the fact that the president has a very full day tomorrow and then again on sunday. reporter: does the president intend to sign the senate bill that would authorize the ashes of lost at sea women air force service pilots to be buried at arlington? mr. earnest: he does.
reporter: do you have any time frame on that? mr. earnest: i don't know that we've even received it yet from the congress. but we'll keep you posted on that. reporter: and on china or the country unnamed in the readout last night between australia and obama -- mr. earnest: really subtle, huh? reporter: yeah. a little passive aggressive. mr. earnest: that's the essence of diplomacy sometimes. reporter: i appreciate that. but can you give us a little bit more there? there was this pretty overt action, this maritime operation near that chinese occupied reef in the chinese sea and the u.s. and us a talia comes quite close to -- australia coming quite close to war ships. that's happening. the president is headed to asia next week. obviously china's the one who is getting a lot of blame for overproduction there. would you say that tensions are on the rise in china? mr. earnest: i would not describe it that way.
concerns at there are about china's activities in the south china sea. they're well documented. concerned we re have raised both publicly and privately with chinese officials as a -- at a range of levels. the freedom of navigation operation that was carried out by u.s. forces earlier this week is relatively routine. we've done that at least a couple of times just in the last four, five months. it is not intended to be a provocative act. it merely is a demonstration of a principle that the president has laid out on a number of occasions. which is that the united states will fly, operate and sail anywhere that international law allows. and this operation was undertaken consistent with that
principle. the concerns and the tensions that exist around the south china sea don't actually directly involve the united states. the united states is not a claim ant to any of the features there. our concern lies principally with the need for those parties that do have competing claims to resolve them through diplomacy. we certainly do not want to see the tensions increase because of the risk that that could pose to the extensive international commerce that's conducted in that region of the world. i think this is also -- i think this also underscores the complexity of the u.s. relationship with australia. australia's one of our closest allies and we work with them on a range of issues and i'll let the australians describe the concerns that they may have or the impact on their national security that the tensions in the south china sea may have, but obviously the australian glut y is affected by the
of capacity in the steel industry. much in the same way that the u.s. is as well. i know that the prime minister has indicated his own priority ensuring that international trade is conducted fairly. and that common ground is the basis for the kinds of conversations that president obama and he have on a fairly regular basis. these are, i think at the same time, the other thing that underlies all of this, is we have been able to work with china in pursuit of other priorities. we've talked about north korea and the influence that the chinese government has with north korea. the sanctions that were imposed by the united nations that went further against north korea than any other set were only possible because the united
states and china were able to cooperate in implementing them. obviously we worked with china to complete the iran deal that we discussed earlier -- earlier. that would not have been possible without china's active peap participation in the discussions. but also china had to be helpful in terms of imposing and enforcing the sanctions that compelled iran to the negotiating table in the first place. i think this illustrates that there are differences of opinion that we have with china. i'm certainly not seeking to down play them. they're significant. they have significant consequences for our economy in particular. but they have not prevented, as the united states -- prevented the united states and china from working together to pursue other areas where we're in better agreement. reporter: why go out of your way to not name china? that's obviously who you were talking about. that's where the point of tension is, having a destroyer go near a reef, you're concerned they're going to turn into an air strip to land jets
on, and that's a u.s. destroyer. that's a pretty overt signal. but you don't want to say china. directly. it seems like an effort, a very certificated effort to avoid appearing to look confrontational. mr. earnest: i think we're not just trying to avoid appearing confrontational, i think i said in my previous answer that we certainly did not intend for that to be concerted a provocative act. i think we're being explicit about that. we've been explicit about that fact both in public and in private. at a range of levels. reporter: the time frame with the president headed to the region, obviously everything's getting scrutinized. mr. earnest: sure. reporter: that was factor here or not? mr. earnest: we know vietnam in particular has concerns about competing claims in the south china sea. we know that vietnam is a signatory to the trans-pacific partnership and we're looking to broaden our economic relationship with vietnam. there's a rapidly growing
middle class in vietnam and u.s. companies could benefit from the opportunity to do business in that part of the world. that would be good for the u.s. economy, it certainly would be good for u.s. workers. and the president's committed to pursuing that priority as he travels overseas. and, look, we know that china sees the same potential benefit if they can increase their ability to do business inside of vietnam. that's actually the essence of the argument that the president has made with regard to the trans-pacific partnership. that if the united states and the rest of the international community doesn't go in and write the rules of the road for doing business in vietnam, then china will. and the benefits of the united states being a part of those rules of the road, it means we're going to have higher labor standards, we're going to have higher human rights standards, higher environmental standards. china hasn't made those things a priority. we know if china's given an opportunity to get a foot hold in vietnam, they certainly are not going to be interested in raising standards. you can imagine the scenario where they might allow those
standards to be lowered even further. at 's no denying that least when it comes to our rip with vietnam, there are -- relationship with vietnam, there are significant consequences with our relationship with china. we never want to create a scenario in which we can't pursue our common interests with china. and the president's been quite clear about that. we've been effective in implementing that strategy in a way that's had positive benefits for china and the united states. and in fact, that's why the other thing that we often say in describing our relationship with china is that we welcome a rising china. in fact, that's the reason that we're hopeful that they can be persuaded to abide by the international rules of the road when it comes to resolving competing claims in the south china sea. when you're an economy as large as china, when you're as influential as china is, particularly in that region of the world, then you benefit
from the ability of disputes to be resolved without going to war. you benefit from disputes being resolved with the expectation that everybody's going to follow the rules. that's the case we make to china. i think that's an indication of how we're able to work with china, how we welcome a rising china, but, look, we're going to have our differences and we're not going to shy away from expressing those. reporter: quick question on iran. the secretary of state in europe. does the white house want to see more european banks do business in iran? mr. earnest: i think what the white house wants is to fulfill our responsibility to international financial institutions, to describe to them exactly what is allowed and what's not allowed when it comes to doing business with iran. that's something that has been part of not just secretary lue's job description, but secretary kerry has gone to great lengths to try to describe the rules of the road
to international financial institutions as well. there are a couple of things that i think are relevant to point out here. one of the things that these large -- that the heads of hese banks say is that the united states has been forceful in enforcing these sanctions, which is why we want to be sure that we are on the right side of the law here. that's validation of what we've said here many times, which is that we take sanctions enforcement quite seriously. and there are large financial institutions that have had to pay big fines for circumventing those sanctions. we're quite serious about that. i think the second thing that i would say is that iran has expressed concerns about the fact that they're not getting the kind of engagement with the international business community that they would like to see and i think our response to that is simply that there
certainly is more that iran could do to encourage that kind of international investment, because that international investment is looking for a stable business climate in which to do business. if you are routinely testing ballistic missiles that violate united nations sanctions that govern your ballistic missile program, that's not going to inspire the confidence of business leaders that this is a safe place to do business. if you are supporting terrorism around the world, that's not going to be particularly persuasive to business leaders that iran is a good place to make an investment. there's more that iran can do. reporter: -- provide letters basically legally assuring these firms that they won't be prosecuted if they go ahead and do business? that's the level of insurance they want. mr. earnest: i guess i'd refer you to the state department or the treasury department or maybe even the department of justice in terms of what kind f assurances can be provided to international companies
about what is appropriate and what's not when it comes to doing business with iran. the fact that you have the secretary of the treasury and the secretary of state at different points sitting down with business leaders from around the world, i think that is an indication that we take quite seriously the responsibility that we have to help people understand what the rules are, because they should know we're going to enforce them. but they should also know exactly what is allowable under the law that's on the books. that's what both secretary kerry and secretary lue have done. reporter: earlier this week the lawsuit the justice department filed against north carolina's lgbt law has suffered from the multiagency review of the measure. do you have an update on that multiagency review? mr. earnest: as we've discussed in here, this is a review that agencies were working on together as they evaluate what impact this law would have on programs that are funded by the
federal government. the white house has been a part of that review, the department of justice has been a part of that rere-view. but all that has been separate from the department of justice conclusion that they needed to take action to enforce the civil rights act of 1964. been concluded as a result of that effort is that the administration will not take action to withhold funding while this enforcement process s playing out in the courts. these are two separate actions that the government has taken, one sort of questioning, evaluating this policy question about what impact the law has on funding. but also separately the department of justice has been engaged in the process of enforcing the civil rights act of 1964 and so while those are two separate processes, it is clear that the decision on the part of the department of justice to move forward with
enforcement means that while the process plays out, the administration will not be taking action to withhold funds. reporter: have you given north carolina a heads up that they will not withhold federal funding? mr. earnest: i know there's regular communication with state officials in north carolina from a variety of agencies. but i can't speak to the details of any of those conversations. reporter: the review of the north carolina law, at least four agencies are also reviewing the religious freedom law. has the same determination been made with respect to that law, that there will be no withholding of federal funds as a result of that statute? mr. earnest: i'll check with my colleagues here about the status of that. i'm not aware that the department of justice has notified the state of mississippi of any potential enforcement actions as a result of that law. t least at this point. but i'll see if i can get you
more specific guidance on that. reporter: what do you say to critics who would say that by saying you're not going to withhold funding until the issue is resolved in the courts, that the administration is not putting its full force and support of equal rights? mr. earnest: i think the president has been quite that en in making clear this is a question of values. when it comes to fighting for justice and fairness and fighting against discrimination , that's something the president's committed to. he's made that a priority. i think the value statement that the president has offered with regard to this law has been clear. as it relates to the more narrow question about the need to enforce the civil rights act, i think the attorney
general has been quite clear about the priorities for enforcement that she has laid out. and what impact that has on some people in north carolina who right now might be feeling like the state government at sufficiently committed to ensure equal treatment under the law. i found the attorney general's words to be quite powerful. and as a native north carolinian, she had a unique perspective on this situation. i think anybody who doubts that should take a minute to review her remarks. reporter: back on the top story of today, this meeting between paul ryan and donald trump and the chaos playing out in the republican party. yesterday d.n.c. chair told reporters that democrats after their primary essentially would
wouldn't have the same thing happen. they'd be unified. but many supporters of senator sanders have said that they won't vote for hillary clinton if she is the democratic nominee. and at the same time they're also saying that he's saying if she comes out on top, the not his responsibility to get his supporters behind her. so the president, as the highest ranking democrat, he's the leader of the democratic party, i'm wondering what the president is going to do to bring the democratic party together when his primary -- his party's primary ends here very soon? mr. earnest: i think the president will be making a case not just to democrats but to independents and republicans across the country that they should support the presidential candidate who understands the progress that we've made over the last seven other eight years. the president's been focused on implementing a strategy in the face of extreme republican obstruction to focus on making economic investments that
expand economic opportunity for the middle class. the president's been focused on trying to use diplomacy to advance our interests around the world. and every step of the way we've seen republicans try to block it. i think that gives you a good sense of where the priorities are, not just of this president, but of the emocratic party. and he'll make that case not just to democratic voters but to voters all across the country. because the question facing voters will be whether or not -- whether they support a candidate who's committed to building on that progress, because there certainly is more work to be done. there's additional progress we need to make. but we're not going to move this country forward by electing a president who is committed to tearing down the strategy that has been so critical to our success over the last several years. [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. nolte -- ♪ >> republican presidential candidate donald trump was in washington, d.c., today meeting with g.o.p. leaders. we'll hear from house speaker paul ryan about the meeting next on c-span. and senate minority leader harry reid talked on the senate floor about mr. trump's visit to washington. then journalists talk about the recent panama papers data breach. and later, former secretary of state james baker and former
national security advertiser tom done land testify on u.s. leadership in the world. >> c-span's "washington journal" live every day with news and policy issues that impact you. coming up friday morning, iowa congressman steve king discusses his experience as cochair of ted cruz is campaign. and overreach. and ohio democratic irishman tim ryan -- congressman tim ryan talk about the defense spending bill. his recent trip to the middle east and his desire to see more special operations forces sent to iraq to train iraqis. washington journal's live at 7 a.m. eastern friday morning. join the discussion. >> house speaker paul