The White House defended Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to invite press to an off-the-record briefing by saying Holder "is interested in having a constructive policy discussion with professional journalists about a subject most people think is a complex policy issue." White House spokesman Josh Earnest added, "We are genuinely interested in the input, the opinion, the advice, the expertise, of leaders of prominent media organizations. We are hopeful and optimistic we’ll get their input on this process."
Via the pool report:
AF1 landed at Andrews at 2:18 p.m. after mostly smooth flight.
Josh Earnest gaggled during flight. Here are highlights. Please check against transcript for accuracy.
No major news. He reiterated Obama’s trust in Eric Holder at Justice and defended decision not to appoint an independent counsel to examine IRS controversy because a new acting director is in place.
He said Potus would get briefing for 2013 hurricane season from federal agencies, incl. discussion of energy and fuel challenges after Hurricane Sandy. Cabinet members and private biz reps will participate.
Earnest said Obama not worried thinking about new Quippinniac poll showing sliding approval ratings, focused instead of his agenda.
Didn’t confirm James Comey as FBI director and didn’t provide timeline for that appointment.
On Justice Dept. meeting with news organizations being off the record, he said that was a Justice decision on the ground rules. He said Obama isv interested in striking balance between protecting national security and ensuring the First Amendment. “By all accounts, the Attorney General is taking this seriously.”
“We are hopeful that media organizations will take advantage of the opportunity to constructively contribute to this process. We’ve heard a lot from media organizations and executives and journalists about how important theses Constitutional rights are and how important it is for the government to get balance of these two interests… because of that persuasive advocacy the AG has invited media orgs to participate and we’re hopeful they’ll accept that invitation.”
(Isn’t off-record meeting hypocritical?) “No, I don’t actually see that. The ag is interested in having a constructive policy discussion with professional journalists about a subject most people think is a complex policy issue. “
“I don’t think there’s any doubting the seriousness with which the attorney general is pursuing what he has identified, what the president has identified as a genuine priority. We are genuinely interested in the input, the opinion, the advice, the expertise, of leaders of prominent media organizations. We are hopeful and optimistic we’ll get their input on this process.”
(Worried Holder is unable to do job amid all the scrutiny?) “not in the least.”