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tv   [untitled]    February 24, 2016 7:01pm-8:00pm EST

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steady, and emphasizing how much of a quick reaction you're seeing on capitol hill from republicans. do you mean to emphasize that contrast? mr. earnest: i think what we're trying to emphasize is two principles that i acknowledge are in some tension. the first is, there's ample time. left in this term. left in the president's final term in office. there's also ample time before the beginning of the next supreme court term in october. for the senate -- for the president to carefully consider a nominee, put that nominee forward, for that individual to get a fair hearing in a timely -- and a timely yes or no vote. we've noted over the last 40 years or so the average time frame for a supreme court nominee to go from nomination to confirmation -- >> this is anything but average when it comes to the political firearmstorm you're looking at. mr. earnest: average time frame is about 67 days.
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i would acknowledge, as i did with darlene that what we have seen from republicans is rather -- is unprecedented, not rather unprecedented, it is genuinely unprecedented and that said, the president allude to this in the oval office, the constitution doesn't include any exceptions for election years. the expectation of our founders and the expectation of the american people are that the united states senate will do its job even though it's an election year. particularly in this era of what's often described as a permanent campaign, it seems like you could use this as a permanent excuse, you could say, there's just another election around the corner. the fact is, by spending more time focused on leches and less me focused on constitutional responsibilities, republicans in the united states senate risk politicizing a branch of the united states government that's
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supposed to be insulated from politics. and that's -- that certainly is part of the stakes here. look, the other part of, the other stakes involved here are the fact that we have a supreme court right now that is functioning with a vacancy. obviously not how the founders certainly, again is inconsistent with the expectations of the american people. >> you said there's a risk of politicizing the supreme court. to you mean to suggest that the president is not looking at the political associations of potential nominees? would he be willing to appoint a republican? mr. earnest: i think the president laid out in his post on the scotus blog today, some of my colleagues are joking it's the potus blog on the scotus log, but he made clear the
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qualities he's looking for for a nominee. there's no reference to a nominee's political affiliation or which candidates they have supported in the political process. there's no reference to the political party he or she has joined. the president is focused on criteria that frankly is more important and that is an individual's qualifications and their experience and their view of the law. that will take precedence over any sort of political consideration. reporter: so in theory, yes, he'd consider a republican for the job? mr. earnest: i think the accurate way to say it is, the president is not going to -- when the president gets to a stage where he's interviewing nominees or potential nominees, in a conversation, i'm confident that he's not going to ask them which party primary they vote n. reporter: he'd know before the
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meeting. mr. earnest: not necessarily. reporter: if he's sitting with a g.o.p. governor. mr. earnest: i guess in some situations that may be more obvious than in others. reporter: on -- when you said interviews, right there, no interviews have actually been held yet? mr. earnest: no interviews have been held at this point, i'll answer that question because i raised it. i don't expect we'll make a public act ngment when those interviews have been conducted. reporter: one more if i could. you said you were unwilling to discuss military options as a potential plan b. plan b was a phrase used by the sec retear of state at least twice so far publicly. so it wasn't simply speculative. it was from the administration. so is there or is there not a plan b? mr. earnest: i think the point i was making to aisha is we are
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focused on trying to bring about the successful implementation of the understanding about cessation of hostilities. that's certainly the focus of secretary kerry's efforts and the focal point of all the work our's going on as a part of work in syria. those efforts continue and will continue unabated. when it comes to this diplomatic track, our focus is i'm trying to get this cessation of hostilities implemented and that we navigate the early potholes in the road that we're sure to encounter. >> it's not that -- you're unwilling to discuss a plan b but you're not unwilling to entertain the possibility of saytary options, many would the they'd be shocked if the administration considered
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military options given that the administration has been against military options. mr. earnest: a lot of our critic, or the armchair quarterback have suggested a plan b should be considered that would include some sort of military option. i think the case i'm trying to make here is we're very focused on trying to implement the cessation of possiblies. the reason i'm not ruling out the plan b generally is because you would expect the administration to take responsible steps around contingency planning. we do that on essentially every policy question the president faces, foreign and domestic. so i'm not suggesting that there's not a discussion about potential contingencies but i am suggesting that those kinds of discussions are not the focus of our attention right now. what is the focus of our attention is the implementation of cessation of hostilities. reporter: less than two weeks ago the president was on the phone with a -- with the popularly elected president of
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the ukraine and they discussed the political importance of the minsing agreement and tissue of the minsk agreement and their effort together to root out any kind of corruption, etc. might the president, since he has been meeting with leaders to bring more openness in his last part of his administration, might he consider a visit to ukraine in his last year of his administration? mr. earnest: i don't have any updates about the president's travel at this point. obviously the situation in --aine is something that has it's been something that the administration has been working on quite a bit lately and obviously vice president biden had the opportunity to travel to ukraine at the end of last year and i think vice president biden, more than anyone, at senior levels in the administration has been invested
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in trying to bring about the resolution in ukraine he would like to see. much of that has been blunted by the refusal of the russians to implement their part of the minsk agreement. we have seen ukrainians take some important steps. we've also seen them put in place some important reforms that will be beneficial to their longer term success. but right now, the biggest problem is the continued willingness of the russians and the separatists in eastern ukraine that they back to flout the obligations and commitments they made in the minsk agreements. even as ukraine is facing some significant challenges, they can continue to rely on the united states to be there to support them as they navigate this difficult situation. reporter: you said that they're not fulfilling their
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responsibility when it comes to the president's supreme court nominee but under the constitution, congress' only responsibility is to give advice and consent. clearly senate republicans are opting not to consent but do you feel they're defying their constitutional responsibility or simply breaking precedent? mr. earnest: i think it's a little of both. both when you consider that every nominee put forward by a president since 1875 that wasn't later withdrawn by that president has received a hearing and/or a vote in the united states senate. it may go back farther than that but that's as far back as our records went. so i think that is an indication actions are their not consistent with more than 120 years of precedent here. what's also true is that, you know, republicans, in offering an excuse, suggested there's an
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80-year precedent of not confirms -- confirming supreme court nominees an election year. that's not correct either. justice kennedy was confirmed by , he ocratic senate in 1988 was nominated by president reagan. it's not just that he was confirmed in an election year or the final year of ray began's last year in office. it's that justice kennedy was confirmed by a democratic senate even though he was nominated by a republican president. i know the letter circulated by republicans on the judiciary committee yesterday got a lot of attention. i think what also merits attention is two of the 11 people who signed that letter are two people who voted to confirm president kennedy in an election year. there's some irony in this whole thing. it is why the republicans are
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going to continually be evaluating whether or not the unreasonable obstructionists, precedent breaking posture they've adopted is one they will sustain over the course of the next 11 months. i think that will be a difficult thing for them to do. >> do you feel they're defying that responsibility? >> i think for, you know, hundreds of years, the senate has had, you know a lot of clarity about what exactly their responsibilities are when it comes to the supreme court. those responsibilities are that the president nominates someone and the senate offer theirs advice and consent. senators don't think to themselves when evaluating a nominee, gee is this the person i would have picked? rather they consider whether this is somebody they are confident will serb in a lifetime appointment to the supreme court with honor and distinction. the president has had success the two time he's nominated supreme court justices in nominating people he was able to persuade republicans would serve
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the country with honor and distension and they have. i'm confident that's what the president will do this time in terms of the person he puts forward. hopefully republicans will be able to set politics aside and focus and prioritize their constitutional duties. reporter: [inaudible] mr. earnest: the last i heard, about 9 minutes ago, we had not yet heard directly from him about whether or not he would attend the meeting. ut we're hopeful that he will. reporter: now that donald trump has won three of four contests, does the president consider him the presumptive nominee? mr. earnest: i haven't asked the president that. i think the president has weighed in pretty directly on his views about mr. trump's chances if he is the republican nominee. but i don't think that he, the president at this point will weigh in on his expectations about who will be the republican
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nominee. >> earlier today when the president talked about the supreme court, he seemed to suggest, he used the phrase, evolve over time and he seemed to suggest that once there's a nominee a name out there, he thinks it's possible the republicans will rethink their position. did he mean to suggest that? and also sort of seemed to point to him trying to figure out a consensuso would be a choice rather than somebody who would be a liberal. is it fair to draw that conclusion from what he said? mr. earnest: well, let's separate out those two thing you may have to remind me the second question, i'll focus on the first part. the fact of the matter is, we've seen a number of senators change their position on this issue. there are a number of senators who have come forward initially declaring their openness to a vote or their openness to a committee hearing or their opposition to a filibuster and
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then to have walked that back after a conversation with the republican leader in the senate. you know, they'll have to explain that to their constituents, why they seem to be listen manager closely to what the republican leader in the senate tells them, as opposed to following what the constitution tells them to do. but i think we've already seen an evolution in the position that some senators have taken and so i certainly -- it would be inaccurate to suggest the positions have been adopted by the republicans in the senate have been fixed. some of them i guess it has. but certainly not all of them. i think what is also true is that we also have seen some members of the senate come forward and say that the president's nominee should get a hearing. and so you know, if anything, there's bipartisan support for a hearing. and we're hopeful that that's what the senate will do.
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reporter: it does seem to suggest that when the see the nominee and see the nominee is well qualified they may change their position. that suggests he would pick a certain kind of nominee, someone that republicans would look at as deeverybody -- deserving of the fair hearing. mr. earnest: i i wouldn't speculate about who the president is going to choose but we have two relevant points of reference, in the form of justice sotomayor and justice kagan two. women with unquestioned qualifications. they had different kinds of experience but the kind of experience that would serve them well on the bench. the president put them forward and they were supported by, i think just about every democrat, and some republicans. that is a bipartisan process and i'm confident that we will -- that when the president makes a final decision, the president will be able to make a forceful
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case that those individuals deserve at least the same kind of bipartisan support that justices sotomayor and kagan got. reporter: something with the republicans who referred several times about who they think should be considered. has there been any of that? mr. earnest: i'm not going to get into the details of their conversations but you would expect there would be some discussion about who the president picks in those consultations. i will say that it's probably hard to have that conversation if the person on the other end of the phone has said that they're not willing to consider anyone. it sort of makes it hard to -- maybe even if they're sheepish about it, maybe -- if they're sheepish about it in public maybe they're a little more willing to discuss it privately but i don't have etail -- details of those calls to read out. there's another element of your question i'm not sure i answered. reporter: i was asking if it's fair to draw the conclusion that
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he was looking for a consensus pick, someone who republicans would look at and say, this person deserves a hearing even though i said i'm not going to grant a hearing. that would point you in the direction that the president is looking for a moderate or someone seen as acceptable to republicans. mr. earnest: that's what i would try to sort of distill here is hat, again, the requirement of the united states senate is not to only vote for the person that you yourself would have chosen to fill a vacancy on the supreme court. so i'm confident, for example, that at least some of the republicans who ended up voting for justice sotomayor probably had someone higher than her on their own personal lists. that's ok. that's a perfectly reasonable position. but that's not what the constitution requires. what the constitution requires is determining whether or not this is an individual who can serve the country with honor and
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distinction. do they have the qualifications necessary to serve on the supreme court. and that's the criteria they use an that was the criteria they used in making the decision to support justice sotomayor's nomination. i think we're realistic about the fact that whoever the president puts forward, even if this is the most nonpartisan person and the most insightful legal thinker in history, the person is not going to get 100 votes in the united states senate, we're realistic about that. the president acknowledged that politics have been injected in this, especially people like senator cruz and senator rubio, if they're still running for president at the time, it's going to be a more complicated vote for them. the president understands that firsthand. that's understandable. the question is, is the institution of the united states senate prepared to act and function in a way that the american people expect? right now it's not. but will that change over time?
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and will that change once there is a nominee put forward that has indisputable qualifications? hopefully. but we'll see. michelle. reporter: about a week ago, the president was traveling and he he used wordsout, like venom and rancor, saying we've almost become accustomed to on o-- to obstructionism of republicans. it seems like a markedly different tone today, sympathetic, saying he understands the posture, recognizes that politics are difficult. why this sort of change in tone there? is he coming around to seeing why this is possible? like i said, a week ago it was all, this is obstructionist and this keeps happening and shouldn't happen. mr. earnest: the president did make the observation, even when he was on the road that this is a process that has been subjected to politics.
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and that it would be impossible to take all politics out of it but he is focused on making sure the united states senate functioning the way the american people expect. you're right, though, that the senate is not off to a good start on this, refusing the courtesy of a visit with the president's potential nominee, that's not the spirit. that either the founders of the country expected. i also don't think it's the spirit that most americans would expect. they elected members of congress to come to washington, d.c., fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and do the work of the american people. and allowing a supreme court vacancy to extend on for more than a year, i don't think that fits anybody's description of members of the senate doing their job, particularly announcing this reflexive opposition just hours after
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justice scalia's death and even before the president has had an opportunity to put someone forward, so their qualifications can be evaluated, i think again is more evidence of the -- of how politicized this process has been. i noted in some of the coverage yesterday that senator mcconnell apparently paid a visit yesterday to the house freedom caucus. it's unclear if they met at tortilla coast, i know that is a frequent watering hole for some members of that caucus. but i think the fact that senator mcconnell requested the visit, that this is the first time he'd ever addressed the group and members of his staff at least told a couple of reporters that he was pleased with the reception he got might be an indication that politics is looming rather large here. and again, you know, the -- i think it's pretty clear that the
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previous tortilla coast gambit that was employed in the house wasn't a successful strategy and hopefully those kinds of tactics have not metastasized to the united states senate. reporter: but the president is no longer harshly criticizing republicans, he's say, i'm simp at the ex, i understand, is he trying a different tack? is he helping this might help things along given that this is one day after republicans basically said hell, no, we're not doing this? mr. earnest: i think this is a reflection of the president's longer term view. he's not going to announce who is nominee is tomorrow. this isn't going to play out in the next 24 hours. s the scotus blog points out today, this will play out over the next couple of weeks and we do have ample time. we do have time for the president to make a decision and
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nominate someone. there will be ample time considering recent precedent for the president's nominee to get a fair hearing and a timely effort. reporter: who was the president trying to reach in the scotus blog, why did he want to do that in that venue? mr. earnest: the goal is to help all of you, but also the american people, understand exactly what kind of criteria he's evaluating as he contemplates who should fill the vacancy in the supreme court. that's why he walks through the kind of qualifications and experience and temperament that he would like to see. reporter: when he's saying he recognizes the politics behind what republicans are doing now he, said the easier thing to do is give into the extreme wings of the party, and in fact when he went for a filibuster against alito, was he giving in to more extreme voices in his own party? mr. earnest: i think the president acknowledge head regretted the vote because of the role politics played there.
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the difference in that situation, though, is it was already well known at the time that the senate was prepared to act on justice alito's nomination and he had sufficient support to be con firled. so -- reporter: wasn't that just playing politics? is that why the president understands this? mr. earnest: i think that's why the president regrets the vote. but that is different than taking the kind of action that no one -- that knowingly disrupts the ability of the united states senate to perform their institutional and constitutional duty. so again, i think the president acknowledged that he accepted some responsibility for this. but he also acknowledged why these two situations are different and it's certainly a far cry from opposing president bush's nominee without even considering who that individual is. in fact the president had some substantive objections to president bush's nomination. reporter: you're making the argument that they're -- it's obviously breaking precedent, they're not even going to take this up if they do what they say
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they're going to do. but let's say they please the public and try not to make so many waves by taking it up but then they're just not going to rhett it go through, they're not going to vote this person in, is there really any difference if that's just going to be the outcome? mr. earnest: i guess -- i think it would be a notable difference for a couple of thing. a t is, it would reflect significant change in their position. right now the senate majority leader is shage won't meet with that person. i don't know if that means he'll just lock the office door that day, but so again if we got to a place where that nominee is treated with courtesy and respect, engages in the kinds of private, one-on-one meetings that have been taking place between supreme court nominees and united states senators for generations, and we see a public hearing where an individual testified under oath about their
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qualifications for the job and members of the senate judiciary committee have an opportunity to explore those views in public, on television, for everyone to see, that's -- that is much more consistent with the senate's constitutional responsibility and at that point, members of the senate will then have to consider whether or not this person has succeeded in making the case that he or she has the aoper credentials to serve in lifetime appointment to the supreme court. and again, i think what's relevant about this is at that point, after a hearing has taken place, the american people will have some sort of opinion about this. and whether or not that has any influence over the opinion of individual senators, i think remains to be seen. but the president's -- the criteria the president will -- whois somebody who is
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will be able to demonstrate thar the best person for the job and conserve with distinction on the supreme court. reporter: let's say the american people think it's in the mainstream, is it safe to assume his nominee will be well within the main steam? mr. earnest: i think based on the president's comments in the oval office you can add that to the list of accurate descriptions of who the president will eventually choose. april. reporter: i want to go back to the supreme court, has the president met informally with people, just having conversations with some of the people on the list, not necessarily formal interviews, but just had like a cursory meeting, hey, how you doing? mr. earnest: april, i'm not going to be able to provide that much granular insight into how this process is shaping up. it's still early on in the process. a final list has not been compiled hat this point. but i don't have any more detail
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to share beyond that. >> a final list hasn't been created but there is a list you said. with that list is there a possibility that the president already knows many of the people on the list and they have already interacted before in the oval office? mr. earnest: i wouldn't -- i don't have a lot of insight to share with you about who is on the list or what kinds of people are on the list. i can say, as i said before, that just because people have been considered the previous time but not chosen, doesn't disqualify them from being considered this time. my point is, it's certainly possible that the president could be familiar with the qualifications and background of a potential nominee that he's considered in a previous round. reporter: and already met those people in the previous round that are on the list? mr. earnest: some of them. reporter: there's a possibility that some of them he already has
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a familiarity with that are on the list? mr. earnest: that's certainly possible. again, i won't confirm who is on the list. reporter: lastly, how much does legacy play into this process? mr. earnest: well, the truth is that i would expect that historians will look back on this moment and i think they'll be evaluating not just the performance of the president but also the performance of the senate. and i think the president has found that over his first seven years in office, that the way he's most likely to be proud of what he did in the -- in his eight years in the white house is by focusing on the task in front of him and making the best possible decision. and that's the kind of criteria he'll use in choosing this nominee. scott. reporter: i think i misunderstood something in your
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opening remarks. urn talking about the unbeasen record in trade disputes, i was trying to square that with w.t.o. and country of origin labeling. mr. earnest: these are 20 enforcement actions that have been brought to the w.t.o. by the united states. reporter: enforcement actions. mr. earnest: enforcement actions brought by the united states. the reason this is relevant is that there are concerns by some opponents of t.p.p. who suggest that the president somehow has not been as aggressive as he should be in looking after the interests of the united states when it comes to international trade. but the fact of the matter is, the united states has brought more enforcement actions to the w.t.o. than any other member of the wmple t.o. and each one that's been decided has been resolved in our favor. so it's an indication not just of how rigorous the administration has been in putting forward enforcement actions to protect the american economy, it also shows we've
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been successful in protecting the u.s. economy. reporter: t.p.p. also raised concerns that they'd be able to en-- less able to enforce their own rules about standards if we were subject to an international body and that was born out in the w.t.o.'s decision in country of origin labeling, wasn't it? mr. earnest: some of these details are complicated, i don't know if i can get into the details of it. the first observation i would have at least when it comes to the example of agricultural product, eamerican farm bureau is a strong supporter and has endorsed the trance pacific partnership. they didn't do that just as a political favor to president barack obama. on most political issues they come down on he opposite side of president obama. but in this case they recognize the u.s. agricultural industry has much to gain from leveling the playing field with countries in soviet asia and asian
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pacific. i can't speak to the specific country of origin labeling ruling, if we need to explore that more i'm sure we can find somebody who knows more about it than i do. reporter: iranian elections are on friday, any thoughts on that or what the administration is hoping for? mr. earnest: i don't. at this point i've resisted, i've usually succeeded in resisting excessive commentary on the u.s. election. i'm certainly going to reserve judgment on the iranian election. at this point. but obviously this is an opportunity for the iranian people to make their choices -- voices heard and it's not just the united states that will be watch, the world will be watching. reporter: with the spoirt, one thing we can agree on is the american public is tired of the partisanship and back and forth and nothing getting done here and all the acrimony back and forth. so why doesn't the president you said in terms of meetings with
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republicans and others and discussions he's doing, kind of the same thing he's done with kagan and sotomayor, why doesn't he adopt a different process? why doesn't he tell the public, find a consensus candidate. we won't make this divisive? and be transparent and open about it instead of all this, i'm going to do my george they should d their job, and he's talked about how this is one of the biggest regrets ever in office of this, why opportunity he try a different approach, that's transparent that is a consensus so the country doesn't have to suffer through months an months of all this back and forth. mr. earnest: i have a really direct answer to this question which is, it is impossible to find consensus when the republicans in the united states senate said they won't support anybody. they won't even consider anybody. they won't even offer up a courtesy meeting with anybody that the president puts forward. so -- reporter: do you think that's
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going to happen? or do you think it's blust her in this poker game, that's the first -- you take them seriously? mr. earnest: it was leader mcconnell himself who said he rarely finds himself off message. i believe he meant what he said. i have no reason to doubt it. i don't think it's the right position. i don't think it's a position that most americans support. i do think there's some evidence, based on his meeting with the house freedom caucus that politics are playing too large of a role here. but ultimately, he's the senate majority leader and he'll have to determine what he believes is the most effective way to lead the senate. questions now for him are different than they used to be. he was the senate minority leader for a listening time. and he found that -- or at least he concluded that political obstruction was a useful political benefit for him he saw that as his strategy and road map for get back into the majority. but apparently that's a strategy he's chosen to continue to
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pursue. where is the n, white house seeing compromise? you don't want to tip your hand and show your cards because of this endless game of partisanship, but is there some way to get out of the situation? again, the -- does the white house, the president have some idea, some approach that can be different that can spare the country all this? all this back and forth? mr. earnest: the president certainly would like to try but that's going to be hard to do when you have members of the united states senate saying they won't do courtesy visits with whomever the president puts forward. it's going to be hard to do when every republican on the judiciary committee said for the first time since 1875 they won't even hold a hearing for whomever the president puts forward. and this is even before the president has put forward a nominee. i think it's going to be hard to try to find some common ground until republicans -- because
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this is the thing that i think is notable. i made this point yesterday. this is not even a situation of republicans saying that they object. this is republicans saying they even refuse to consider. and that's why it's hard for them to make the case that they're doing their jobs. again, for most americans, they're showing up to work not even considering any alternatives, i don't think that's part of anybody's job description. >> and you're not get anything signals privately that that's not real? mr. earnest: the president made the observation in the oval office that some people might be sheepish about this. but we'll have to see. these are individuals who have been elected by states across the country to serve in six-year terms, not five-year, one month term but six-year terms in the yates senate. many of them had to go through hotly contested campaigns, both in a primary and general election, to get there. many of them have been re-elected multiple times. these are serious people. they understand what's required to make serious decisions.
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they understand the stakes that are involved when you're considering a lifetime appointment to the supreme court. they understand the decisions that made -- that are made in the united states senate have an impact on the country. >> why did the president speak out today, nine minutes? he seemed like he was prepared he, seemed ready for that, he seemed to want to take that moment, it seemed planned, it seemed he thought about it a lot to spend nine minutes talking about this, why today? was the flat refusal to have meetings? was there something in particular that someone said to him or something he was aware of? mr. earnest: i think what this reflects, ron, i noticed it was a rather lengthy answer as well, detailed, some might say, i think this is a reflection that the president has spent a lot of time thinking about this and an indication the president did do his homework over the weekend when he was considering materials put together by his legal team. this is an indication he's had
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multiple conversations with members on both parties on capitol hill on the proper way forward. this is a good illustration of how seriously the president take this is constitutional responsibility of his and i think you can expect that seriousness of purpose to continue throughout this process. reporter: you said not in 24 hours or a couple of weeks, can we dru those lines? mr. earnest: when i said a couple of weeks, i knew i would regret it. i would encourage you not to overreed in this. reporter: i was trying to read it exactly. mr. earnest: go by the president's words, in the coming weeks. reporter: back to that quagmire. mr. earnest: ok. >> i want -- without having you say two who exactly is on the list, how important is it for the president to consider a female judge for the high court? mr. earnest: well, i -- the
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president has obviously appointed two distinguished, accomplished women to the supreme court in his first two years in office. but again, i think the president will evaluate the nominees' credentials based on their record, based on their intellect, based on their experience, and the gender of this individual does not rate highly on the list. reporter: let me follow up by asking, given the makeup of the court currently, is it relevant at all that for the broad swath of history, there have been relatively few women on the high court and him now having apointed two, or nominated two, having successfully two confirmed, would it not be important for him to continue that trend to more exwhattably balance the court, is that interesting at all to him? is that a conversation he's had?
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mr. earnest: i'm confident the president will consider some women candidates but at this point i don't think the gender of the nominee will drive the decision. what will drive the decision will be that individual's qualifications, their experience and their intellect. their ability to serve on the supreme court of the united states with honor and distinction. reporter: any chance the president will if he can't persuade senators mcconnell or grassley to come here, will he go to the hill? mr. earnest: the president has done that before, he's done meetings on capitol hill before. but in the aftermath of the last two supreme court vacancy the president convened a meeting in the oval office with the leaders of the judiciary committee. he's interested in doing the same thing again. senator leahy from vermont is the ranking member of the judiciary committee has agreed to that meeting. the meeting will take place, hopefully chairman grassley will be there. reporter: do you have a read utah of when that might happen?
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mr. earnest: i don't at this point but we'll keep you apprised of that reporter: lastly -- mr. earnest: i'll point out that the two previous times the president convened these moot meet the pool was allowed in there, photographs were taken, and the president made a brief statement to the pool in both circumstances. reporter: lastly, i wanted to ask you about his conversation with the king today and the importance of partnership in the fight against isil. there seems to be some sense that there's a disagreement within the administration about how best to go forward, in particular given russia's previous disposition for breaking agreements, be they minsk or other, how concerned is the president that even if a cease fire is brokered, the russians won't hold to it and is there a rift within the administration at all about how to best go about apply manager pressure on the syrians and others to hopefully get this
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done? mr. earnest: there is unanimity of opinion in the administration that successfully eliminating hostilities is the clearest and best way to advance our interests there. it will allow multiple things to happen. first of all, it will give a boost to the ongoing but pledgeling political transition process there. flow of llow the freer humanitarian assistance to areas of syria that right now are hard to access because of the fighting. it also will refocus every's attention on the counterisil effort and you know, we have aid for quite some time that russia should stop taking strikes in syria where there is little, if any, isil presence, and actually integrate their military efforts with the broader international coalition
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and actually start focusing their firepower on isil. that is why the cessation of hostilities has emerged as a priority. you're also pointing out something that's really important, which is that it requires the russians to live up to what they've committed to here. and that's a tall order. and so that may be hard to do lt it's why i do anticipate that it will be a little bit of a start and stop process at the begin bug it's over the -- but if over the course of several week, we can get that cessation of hostilities implemented, it will allow us to focus on the more important tasks at hand like the political transition, the delivery of critically important humanitarian aid and a renewed focus on the part of countries like russia on actually succeeding in degrading and
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ultimately destroying isil. reporter: i want to go back to guantanamo bay. attention yesterday was on the president's proposal to close the facility outright by transferring detainees to u.s. soil. there's a couple of other things he proposed, or said the administration was doing to, for example, speed up the review board process, etc. if in fact he -- if those periodic review board hearings are completed by the end of the summer, as the president said, and if the current trend continues, a lot of human rights activists said we can get down to perhaps a half dozen people who are not eligible for transfer to some third country if you can find third countries willing to make a security and humanitarian arrangements to take them. then in addition to the 10 military commissions, you've got
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aybe a dozen or so hard core sort of indefinite detainees. i guess my question to you is, would the president continue -- consider that a victory? would that be a substantial fulfillment of his campaign process? would he use maybe lower level executive actions to extradite those or find a place for these? -- for those? could we get down to zero or near zero by the end of the president's term? and is that part of the strategy to put legal, economic and political pressure on congress to say, we only have a handful now of detainees, even more of an argument to close the facility? mr. earnest: let me address that in a couple of different ways. transferring gitmo detainees who based on a careful review by the president's national security team are elible -- eligible for transfer continues to be a high priority. we have seen congress interfere in that effort, for example,
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congress has required 30-day notification and specific certification by the secretary of defense before those transfers can be commenced. that is a lot of red tape and a lot of bureaucracy that we have routinely complied with. and we are -- we're going to continue to do that work. it also requires, or depends upon, as you point out, the cooperation of our allies and partners, about 35 countries that have agreed to take gitmo detainees and so it will require further intensive diplomatic work with those countries or maybe some others that haven't taken any yet to try to find an appropriation arrangement for the safe transfer of these individuals. that will continue to be a priority even in the face of continued congressional obstruction, that's still going to be a priority. primarily because, gregory, as you point out, that is part of our strategy for closing the
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prison. what we're looking ahead to is an acknowledgment, something you also referred to, which is that some of these individuals will not be deemed safe for transfer. and some of these individuals cannot be evketively prosecuted in our criminal justice system -- effectively prosecuted in our criminal justice system. that means they'll be subject to detention. and the case we have made to congress and will continue to make publicly, we've made it for seven years and will continue to ep making it, is that we can do that, keep these individuals detained under law of war rules, in the united states in a way that removes a potent symbol that is used by terrorists to recruit and by bringing them to facilities that are here in the united states we can actually detain them under this elaws of war in a way that costs taxpayers a lot less money. so when you consider those
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benefits, and when you consider the recommending as of the sec retear of defense, this is a pretty easy policy decision. again, we hear a lot of republicans running around for president who say that they want to keep america safe, that they want to cut wasteful government spending, and that they want to follow the advice of our leaders at the pentagon. that's exactly what the president is proposing to do with plan to close the prison at guantanamo bay and that's also why i think it's notable that there is bipartisan support for this plan. certainly president george w. bush a republican, believes that the prison at guantanamo bay should be closed and i noted earlier today that his secretary of state, general colin powell, indicated his support for closing the prison at guantanamo bay. so this isn't a partisan issue. this is a situation where president bush, president obama, our leaders at the pentagon, and
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others that have deep, respected experience on these issues all agree that this is a worthwhile goal and it could be completed this year if congress doesn't prevent it. reporter: do you have a number in mind of how many would be subject to end up in a detention even if the president is able to go through all the steps you just outlined? mr. earnest: i don't have an estimate at this point. the periodic review board is doing its work. and we'll have prosecutors also evaluating whether or not these individuals could be successfully prosecuted and so those determinations, the determinations by the review board, the determinations by prosecutors will have an impact on what the final number looks like. reporter: does the president believe the constitution prohibits senators from voting against a nominee to the supreme court? mr. earnest: no. what the president believes is
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that the senate as an institution has the responsibility to continue to function and to make sure that the third branch of government can also continue to function as our founders intended. as i pointed out, it is uns predened in modern supreme court history for a single vacancy to have an impact on two different terms of the supreme court. and right now, if republicans in the senate follow through on their promise, that's the unprecedented result. so the president's expectation an at the senate as institution will function to prevent that from happening. but here's the thing. this goes become to what michelle is asking about. the president is not suggesting that every ounce of politics needs to drained out of this. over the year, a lot of politics has built up and the president's realistic about that. and the president is realistic about the fact that that's more
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pronounced in an election year. that's entirely understandable. we know that there's going to be politics influencing this process. what we can't afford to have is politics dictating this process. yet right now, that appears to be what's happening. an that's not good for our system of government, and it's certainly not good for the one branch of government that's supposed to be most isolated and protected from the influence of partisan electoral politics. reporter: does he believe the constitution requires senators to meet with a supreme court nominee? mr. earnest: since 1875, every member -- reporter: i understand that there's a lot of discussion about precedent and history. i'm asking about the constitution and what the president believes the bare minimum requirements are. clearly, we're talking about the bare minimum unfortunately. mr. earnest: it's the response thovelt senate to offer the president advice and consent on his supreme court nominee and it seems quite difficult to do that
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without -- if you continue to refuse to even meet with that person. i'm not sure that would be -- that their advice and consent would be particularly well informed. reporter: does the president acknowledge, then, that senators -- it's their right to withhold consent? mr. earnest: the president hasn't even named an no, ma'am -- named a nominee. reporter: we're talking about the bargain basement of what the constitution requires. is withholding their approval or consent from a nominee within each individual senator's right? mr. earnest: again, maybe some of the questions you're asking could be directed to a constitutional scholar. i think everybody in this room and many people watching understand the expectations that the senate has, based on their constitutional duty to provide the president advice and consent on his supreme court nominee.
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reporter: i'm just asking if the white house believes as many in the senate have claimed that they have the right to withhold that consent. do you agrow with that assessment? mr. earnest: my assessment is that most people think it is unreasonable for republicans in the jates senate to say that they will not support any nominee that the president puts forward, to refuse to meet with any nominee the president puts fwar, to refuse to hold hearings about that -- for that nominee for the first time since 1875. again, i don't think -- the american people have an expectation that member os they have united states senate are going to do their job. and again, maybe part of their job description does involve making a decision after careful thought and consideration, after listening to hearings, after meeting in private with this individual, maybe they determine that part of doing their job means voting no. but again, their job does not require them to choose someone
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and only vote yes for someone who they believe is at the top of their own personal list. if the person that's at the top of their personal list is appointed to the supreme court, then they should run for president. if they want that responsibility. some of them are. i would point out they're not running for three-year terms, they're running for four-year terms. because whoever is elected president in 2016 will take office in january of 2017 and for the next four years will have the constitutional responsibility to appoint individuals to fill vacancies on the supreme court. that's the way our system has worked for more than 200 years and i certainly would expect that people who claim to be passionate defenders of the united states constitution would be passionate advocates for that argument unless politics is interfering. i suspect that's what's happening. reporter: is there any reaction to senate majority leader mcconnell saying he wouldn't commit to an up or down vote on the next president's nominee to the supreme court?
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mr. earnest: i don't think that i saw that part of his answer. but i'll just say in general, that again, what we are seing is in precedented escalation he polityization of the -- politicization of the supreme court nomination process and that in the view of this president is not a good thing. that doesn't mean that for this process to succeed we need to drain every element of politics out of the equation but it does mean that republicans, who are in the majority, who worked hard to begin the majority of the senate, who vowed when they took the majority of the senate to get congress moving again, the president does have an exppingsation that the senate as an constitution will fulfill their responsibility, which means giving the president's fair a timely hearing, hearing and timely up or down ote.
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reporter: they said recently -- thaublenauble mr. earnest: that is not what the government of turkey committed to in the context of the cessation of hostilities. our expectation is that the understanding has been reached. we've got a framework for implementing it. we do anticipate there will be some bumps along the way. it will not be smooth implementation process. but we have now seen public commitments on the part of the russians and the syrian government, most importantly, about the steps they will take to implement this understanding. reporter: they seem to be backing away from that. would there be consequences imposed by this united states on turkey if they were to go ahead and violate the cease fire by targeting the y.p.g.? mr. earnest: turkey is a nato ally and it is an ally that can
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count on the reliable support of the united states of america, particularly in a time frame in which the people of turkey have been subjected to terrorist attacks on their soil. their concern about their national security is understandable. but the best way to address that concern is for us to address the long standing political chaos that is fomenting so much violence on the other side of their board we are syria. that's a problem and that's one of the many important reasons that the united states has been so deeply engaged in this diplomatic, political effort, because of the negative impact it's having on the broader region, especially on our nato ally in turkey. reporter: are there negative consequences for turkey if they defy your wishs? mr. earnest: our expectation is everybody who signed up for the cessation of hostilities understanding will fulfill -- will meet their commitment. and our concern right now is
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most directly focused on the russians and on the syrian regime. they've made some important commitments and we're going to expect them to meet them, at the same time, this process is going to be bumpy and i don't just mean the first few days but at least the first few weeks. but with perseverance, we are hopeful that we can implement a cessation of hostilities that will pave the way for advancing the political pransigs inside of syria, for speeding the flow of humanitarian assistance and for an intense focus being placed on our effort to degrade and ult destroy isil. reporter: will it sur private -- survive if turkey doesn't play ball? mr. earnest: our expectation is those who made commitments will keep those commitments and we have that expectaon


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