Entries in White House (229)


White House Working Towards Response After Reported Syria Gassing

Joshua Roberts/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In light of the reported chemical attack in Syria this week, the White House has been busy meeting and discussing possible responses to the alleged actions of President Bashar al-Assad's government.

While Syria is unlikely to grant the U.S. access to facts and evidence, the White House spent most of Friday working to fill in the gaps around the reports. The Syrian opposition has been helpful in providing evidence to the U.S. government.

A senior official told ABC News that the administration is "taking a look at options" that include missile strikes and providing arms to the rebels. With that said, sending American soldiers to Syria is not -- and will not be -- an option.

The official said that the meetings were different from past administration rhetoric, in that it is more urgent. The potential large death tolls could represent either a major escalation or proof that Assad has lost control of his country's chemical weapons.

While administration officials hope to have a decision in the near future, "there is no timeline."

The official told ABC News that whatever action the U.S. takes must serve to advance the U.S. strategy and goals in Syria and should take into consideration the potential consequences.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry spent much of Friday making phone calls to a number of foreign representatives. In speaking with foreign ministers and secretaries from Europe and the Middle East, as well as representatives from the United Nations, the European Union and the Arab League, Kerry reiterated the United States' commitment to gather the pertinent facts surrounding the events of this past week.

A statement from a senior State Department official additionally expressed American "concern and outrage over the disturbing reports, photos and videos we have seen, which shock the conscience."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House: Jobs Report Confirms Continued Economic Recovery

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Friday's jobs report showed that U.S. employers added nearly 200,000 jobs in the past month, gains that the White House calls proof of the continuing recovery from the recession that began in 2007.

In a statement on Friday, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, Alan B. Krueger, said that the most recent report is "further confirmation that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression."

While the overall unemployment rate remained stuck at 7.6 percent, the rate of participation in the labor force rose by 0.1 percent.

The White House stressed that there is still work to be done, but that the 5.3 million jobs added since June 2009 is evidence that the economic recovery is continuing to gain traction. The economy has added private sector jobs for 40 consecutive months, with 7.2 million jobs added in that span.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Bachmann: Scandals Facing White House 'Far Worse Than Watergate'

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Congressman Michele Bachmann Thursday called the various scandals facing the White House “far worse than Watergate,” blaming the Obama administration for “direct actions taken against Americans who sought to exercise their free speech rights under the First Amendment.”

Bachmann, who ran for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination and currently chairs the Tea Party caucus, held a press conference on Thursday attended by various other conservative luminaries to criticize the administration not just for the IRS targeting Tea Party groups but the Justice Department seizing phone records of Associated Press reporters and the ongoing controversy surrounding last year’s deadly attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.

The Minnesota Republican and her GOP allies suggested that if the White House wasn’t complicit in various cover-ups, at the very least, the administration is guilty of allowing the federal government to abuse its already massive powers.

As for the IRS singling out groups affiliated with the Tea Party and various other conservative causes, Bachmann expressed concerns that the White House might go to any lengths to impede the activities of anyone that doesn't march in lockstep with the president’s policies.

Asked whether she thought the various scandals are impeachable offenses, Bachmann measured her words, saying, “We also don’t want to jump to conclusions, we want to go where the facts lead us. We aren’t interested in creating our own facts.”

However, she promised multiple investigations to get to the bottom of the IRS scandal while chief executive Jordan Sekulow of the conservative American Center for Law and Justice said his group will bring a lawsuit against the IRS on Tea Party groups’ behalf next week.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sen. Schumer Reintroduces Media Shield Law

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Faced with blowback after it was revealed this week that the Department of Justice had secretly obtained Associated Press phone records, the White House and Senate Democrats are reviving legislation to protect journalists.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on Wednesday reintroduced the media shield bill, The Free Flow of Information Act of 2013, which would aim to protect journalists from having to reveal information, including source identities, as well as establish a legal framework for determining the “limited circumstances” when this information could be subject to compelled disclosure in court.

“The White House has been in contact with Sen. Schumer, and we are glad to see that that legislation will be reintroduced, because he believes strongly that we need to provide the protections to the media that this legislation would do,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday. “The president believes that the balance that we need to achieve needs to allow the maximum amount of freedom for the media to pursue investigative journalism that’s possible. And the media shield law that he supports, or bill that he supports, would go a long way towards achieving that.”

It was unclear, bill sponsors admitted, whether the bill would have changed the outcome in the AP phone records case.

Attorney General Eric Holder expressed support for such a law at a hearing of the full House Judicial Committee Wednesday afternoon after being asked about the Department of Justice’s authority to prosecute reporters for publishing classified information.

“With regard to the potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material, that is not something that I’ve ever been involved in, heard of or would think would be a wise policy,” Holder said in response to a question from Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. “In fact, my view is quite the opposite....There should be a shield law with regard to the press’ ability to gather information and to disseminate it. The focus should be on those people who break their oaths and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information.”

The bill does not provide an absolute privilege for journalists. Prosecutors would have to convince a judge that the information at issue would “prevent or mitigate an act of terrorism or harm to national security.”

“This kind of law would balance national security needs against the public’s right to the free flow of information. At minimum, our bill would have ensured a fairer, more deliberate process in this case,” Schumer said.

This bill was last considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2009 but stalled in the full Senate.

The Reporters’ Committee for Freedom of the Press is hopeful this latest attempt to pass a shield law will be successful.  But the group is concerned that the Schumer bill’s exception for national security is overly broad.

“If you say ‘any national security threat, as defined by the administration,’ they’re going to overuse it,” said the committee’s legal defense director, Gregg Leslie.  ”We know that for the same reasons they overreached in this case.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Honors Nation's Top Police Officers at White House

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama honored several dozen of the nation’s top law enforcement officials at the White House on Saturday, saying they “embody America at its best and at its bravest.”

“We know that when we need you most, you’ll be ready to dash into danger, to protect our lives, even if it means putting your lives on the line,” he said as the National Association of Police Organization’s TOP COPS Award recipients stood behind him during an event in the East Room of the White House. “That’s what these folks are all about. That’s what the men and women standing behind me have proven — their heart, their courage, their dedication.”

As he paid tribute to the nation’s top police officers, the president also pushed for “common-sense steps” on gun control to ensure the safety of those officers in the line of duty.

“We also need to take some common-sense steps that protect our rights, protect our children, protect officers in the line of duty by making it harder for dangerous criminals to get their hands on lethal weapons,’ he said.

Obama praised the work of law enforcement officials and first responders during the attacks and the ensuing investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings last month.

“Just a few weeks ago obviously in Boston, our entire country saw once again the strong stuff these men and women in uniform are made of. Police officers, first responders, who were running towards explosives, not knowing if there was something more on the way. Law enforcement from different agencies, from different parts of the country working together as one united team to identify suspects and bring them to justice,” he said. “And in a moment that few of us will ever forget, the citizens of Watertown, Massachusetts, lining the streets to cheer on and high-five and hug the officers as they’re heading home after a job well done.”

The honorees came from police departments from across the country — from Oak Creek, Wis., where police officers responded to the deadly shooting at the Sikh temple last summer, to New York City. The president highlighted several officers’ heroic acts, including that of Det. Ivan Marcano of the New York Police Department, who was off-duty and on a “date night” with his girlfriend when he was shot in the chest while trying to stop a burglary.

“He got out of his girlfriend’s car to stop them and was shot point blank in the chest, a bullet inches from his heart.  But his story doesn’t end there,” the president said. “As his girlfriend was driving him to the hospital, I’m sure not very happy with him, by total coincidence, they ran into the shooter’s getaway car.  So what does Det. Marcano do? He jumps out of the car, he’s been shot, keeps pressure on his chest with his left hand, holding a service weapon with his right, he runs after the suspects.  He took one of them down, which led to the capture of the others.

“He wasn’t on the clock when any of this happened.  This was his date night,” Obama added.

Since 1994, NAPO has honored some of the nation’s outstanding law enforcement officials who have gone beyond the call of duty with the annual TOP COPS Awards, which are to be officially presented Sunday during a ceremony in Washington.

As he praised the cops for their work, the president made a call for the country to take the time to thank those officers who risk their lives to protect them.

“When you see a police officer, you meet an officer’s family, let them know how much you appreciate it.  It’s the least we can do for the men and women who give us so much and help keep us safe,” he said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


West Wing Evacuated Due to Overheated Transformer

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The West Wing of the White House was evacuated early Saturday morning due to an overheated transformer.

“Early this morning, an electrical transformer near the West Wing malfunctioned and set off a smoke alarm in the West Wing. The transformer problem was quickly resolved,” a White House official told ABC News. “Electricity and personnel access to the West Wing has returned to normal. The First Family was unaffected.”

U.S. Secret Service told ABC News that at around 7 a.m., someone reported seeing smoke coming from what looked like a mechanical closet in the West Wing of the White House.

The D.C. Fire Department later clarified that it was an “odor that smelled like smoke” that was reported.

Out of an abundance of caution, the West Wing was evacuated and the D.C. Fire Department was called.

A D.C. Fire Department official said that the smell eventually dissipated, and there was no fire.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Fountain Dyed Green for St. Patrick’s Day

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- In honor of St. Patrick’s Day Sunday, the White House dyed the fountain on the South Lawn green to celebrate.

President Obama spent most of St. Patrick’s Day at the White House, but went out Saturday afternoon to play basketball with his 11-year-old daughter Sasha at the Department of Interior.

While his weekend was quiet, the president will continue his St. Patrick’s Day celebration on Tuesday, first attending the traditional St. Patrick’s Day lunch at the Capitol.  In the evening, the president and first lady will host Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny for a St. Patrick’s Day reception at the White House.  The president and Kenny will participate in the annual Shamrock ceremony, a tradition that dates back to the presidency of Harry Truman.

Last year, Obama popped into the Dubliner, a pub on Capitol Hill, for a Guinness and a toast with the crowd.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Iowa Students Make It to White House Gates But Not Inside

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- They didn’t get the White House tour they had hoped for, but the group of Iowa students who are pushing the White House to reopen tours to the public made it to the White House gates Saturday morning.

The 6th graders from St. Paul’s Lutheran School in Waverly, Iowa posed for photos outside the White House while holding individual paper signs spelling out the phrase, “The White House is our house!  Please let us visit!”  Onlookers cheered the kids in their efforts, with one may saying, “Way to go young people!”

“It’s kind of disappointing, but it’s still kind of fun to see the White House,” Mosai Newsom, one of the sixth grade students, told ABC News.

Seth Abkemeier, another 6th grader who has gone on a White House tour on a previous visit to Washington, D.C., said it’s important for people to have access to the history that can be seen on a White House tour.

“It shows our nation’s history within the White House, and it’s important we get to see this up close” Abkemeier said.  “Like we’ve been saying for a whole week now – it’s our house.”

“I would really like it if you could open the White House, so we could let the tours in,” Naomi Carpenter, a sixth grade student at St. Paul’s Lutheran School, said when asked to send a message to the president.

On Friday, the sixth grade students received a tour of the Capitol where they looked at the Mall from the Speaker’s balcony and stepped on the floors of the House and Senate chambers.  After their stop at the White House Saturday, the kids were planning to hit the Smithsonian museums to take in more of the nation’s history.

“You couldn’t ask for a better learning environment,” Lynn Brown, the students’ sixth grade teacher, said.  “It would have been a benefit and a plus to visit the White House, however, I think the kids take away more than just what they’ll remember through pictures.  The experience this has generated in their hearts and minds has been extraordinary.”

And while they didn’t get into the White House themselves, the kids hoped that others might benefit from their hard work.

“I guess it was OK if we didn’t get to go to the White House, as long as other people get to,” Newsom said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


White House Launches 'Being Biden' Series

Official White House Photo by David Lienemann(WASHINGTON) -- The White House has launched an audio series called “Being Biden,” where the vice president will share the story of a photograph in which he appears.

The first picture featured in the series is of Biden’s serving rolls at a wild game dinner in Delaware earlier this month. The vice president is shaking hands with a man wearing a hunting-style shirt featuring deer in the woods as Biden holds a tong in his other hand.

“Hey folks, I want to tell you about this picture you’re looking at,” Biden said. “These are a couple of guys in their hunting shirts that I’m serving a meal to, along with the folks you see in the back gourd and the occasion is once a year, the Whitehall Neck Sportsman Club holds a dinner.

“I’ve been attending it for over 30 years. It’s called a wild game dinner and they go out and they hunt for wild game that they then cook up and serve at the Leipsic fire hall, as you see in the background. All the money goes to charity and then there’s an auction and they auction off guns and bows and all that money as well goes to, originally went to [defray] the costs and expenses of a buddy of theirs who was injured in a hunting accident years ago, now it goes to help people in need.”

Biden then detailed how important the right to bear arms responsibly is to himself and the hunters.

“They believe there is a Second Amendment right to own a weapon. So do I, but they also believe that it’s for self-protection and legitimate uses like hunting and these guys have the ethic, an ethic that I find most sportsmen have, one that demands responsibility in terms of their case how you deal with, treat, and store your weapons, and there’s an ethic that they have that says we’re going to help those in our community who are in need,” Biden said. “I know these guys, and I know an awful lot of them.  I’ve been doing it for over 30 years.  They’re my friends, but the point is they are absolutely, totally responsible.”

The vice president noted that Thursday marks three months since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, and urged Congress to pass gun legislation to help prevent such a tragedy in the future.

“This is the third-month anniversary of those twenty beautiful little babies who were massacred up in Connecticut in Sandy Hook and those six brave teachers and administrators that tried to protect them.  And the country cries for responsible action, to do everything we can to see to it that these kinds of events don’t happen again,” he said.

“I’m pleased to say the Judiciary Committee, that’s the committee in the United States Senate, has passed out the major elements of what we’ve proposed. They’ve passed out a gun-trafficking piece of legislation, a universal background check piece, a school safety piece, and I think they’re going to do more,” Biden said.

“I think it’s time the United States Congress act responsibly now and seriously debate the pieces of legislation we’ve talked about so that we can get to a position where we actually make our communities safer for our children, make our schools safer, and make society safer.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Obama Considers Resuming White House Tours for School Groups

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Four days after shuttering the White House to the public to cut costs, President Obama says he’s asking the U.S. Secret Service about the possibility of resuming tours for school groups, which have begun descending on the nation’s capital for spring break.

“What I’m asking them is are there ways, for example, for us to accommodate school groups … who may have traveled here with some bake sales,” Obama told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Good Morning America.  “Can we make sure that kids, potentially, can still come to tour?”

Obama’s comments suggested, contrary to previous statements by the administration, that the decision to scrap the tours fell solely to the Secret Service.

“I have to say this was not a decision that went up to the White House,” Obama said in the interview.  “But what the Secret Service explained to us was that they’re going to have to furlough some folks."

“The question for them is, you know, how deeply do they have to furlough their staff and is it worth it to make sure that we’ve got White House tours that means that you got a whole bunch of families who are depending on a paycheck, who suddenly are seeing a 5 percent or 10 percent reduction in their pay,” he said.

An administration official, seeking to clarify the president’s remarks, stressed that the decision to cancel the tours never came to the Oval Office, but that it was ultimately made by White House staff.

“In order to allow the Secret Service to best fulfill its core mission, the White House made the decision that we would, unfortunately, have to temporarily suspend these tours,” spokesman Jay Carney told reporters last week.

Secret Service officials also told ABC News that the decision to cancel the tours was made by the White House, although the agency first proposed the move as a possible cost-saving measure.  The Secret Service has to cut $84 million because of so-called sequestration; canceling public tours saves $74,000 per week, the agency said.

“I’m always amused when people on the one hand say the sequester doesn’t mean anything and the administration’s exaggerating its effects; and then whatever the specific effects are, they yell and scream and say, ‘Why are you doing that?’  Well, there are consequences to Congress not having come up with a more sensible way to reduce the deficit,” Obama said.

One group of sixth-graders from Waverly, Iowa, which had planned to tour the White House later this week, has launched a grassroots lobbying campaign to pressure lawmakers and the administration to open the doors at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

A new website produced by the students -- “The White House is OUR HOUSE” -- urges people to call and email the administration to reinstate the tours and features a catchy web video they hope will go viral.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio