Tags: Podesta | Clinton | Guantanamo | Congress

John Podesta Speaks on Obama Agenda — Part III

By    |   Wednesday, 18 June 2014 07:38 AM

On June 6, John Podesta, counselor to President Obama, appeared before Washington reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor to discuss the administration's agenda and to take questions from reporters. David Cook, senior editor of The Monitor, moderated the event.

The first article in this series focused on the new pollution rule the Environmental Protection Agency has issued at the behest of the administration. This article will discuss issues raised by reporters other than the pollution rule and the president's political problems. Among these items is Podesta's view on Hillary Clinton's nascent presidential campaign.

Hillary's Campaign and Other Issues Raised by Reporters

Podesta demurred when asked by a reporter for his reaction to Hillary Clinton saying that she disagreed with Obama about whether to arm the Syrian rebels. There were chuckles when, alluding to Hillary's new book Hard Choices, he allowed, "It was probably a 'hard choice.'"

Susan Page asked how a Hillary Clinton presidency would differ from the Bill Clinton presidency and from the Obama presidency, and Podesta said he hasn't thought about it, that the skills of the president are different, as are the times and the challenges. He asserted that all three have been motivated by "ensuring that everybody has opportunity in this country." Asked by Page to give three adjectives to describe a Hillary Clinton presidency, Podesta offered: disciplined, tough and determined.

Release of Sgt. Bergdahl, Closing of Gitmo

Asked about the possible challenges presented by the release of Bowe Bergdahl along with a group of terrorists, Podesta invoked the standard that "the Secretary of Defense made the determination that the transaction was in the national security interest of the U.S. and that the threat posed by the detainees . . . would be substantially mitigated," citing assurances by the Qataris that he couldn't get into, along with monitoring by the United States. Moreover, the president "thought that we had a commitment and a duty to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield."

Asked on a follow-up how the United States would monitor the transferees, Podesta assured the reporter that "we have ways" and "I think it's fair to say we'll keep an eye on them."

Alexis Simendinger asked whether Obama has the legal authority to transfer the remaining detainees and to close Guantanamo on his own authority. Podesta responded that Obama wants to close Guantanamo before he departs, that he's working very hard to do it, that it can be done under the authority of existing law and that the administration has let "our friends in Congress know what is unacceptable." The negotiations are continuing while the president works to close Guantanamo.

Immigration Reform

Podesta was asked whether it might not be the best tactic to use Executive authority to deal with immigration reform, and he responded that the best way permanently "to fix a broken immigration system" is to continue to work with Congress, because he thinks the White House thinks that House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to move forward on legislation. He said the president "is prepared" to wait to see if the Republicans can put a compromise together over the summer.

Meanwhile, the Secretary is reviewing his options, and the administration "will have to think through what our options are if the Congress is just unable to act." He expressed reluctance to act quicker through Executive authority lest Congress use this as an excuse not to act.

Another reporter asked whether the administration might be prompted by the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border to act sooner on immigration reform. Podesta responded that this flow is largely coming from Central America and that the law calls for the immigrants to be turned over to Health and Human Services (HHS) rather than returned, and an interagency task force led by Department of Homeland Security and HHS and now coordinated by Federal Emergency Management Agency is working on the humanitarian crisis.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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On June 6, John Podesta, counselor to President Obama, appeared before Washington reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor to discuss the administration's agenda and to take questions from reporters.
Podesta, Clinton, Guantanamo, Congress
Wednesday, 18 June 2014 07:38 AM
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