Obama Calls on Congress to Bolster Embassy Security

12:46 PM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Obama and Turkish PM Erdogan Discuss Syria

Video: Obama: Options Remain Open in Syria Crisis

Video: Obama: IRS IG Report 'Unacceptable'

Video: Obama:'no Apologies' Over US Security Leak Probe

US President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan hold a joint press conference, during a rain shower, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, May 16, 2013. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)


Aamer Madhani, USA TODAY

President Obama took questions from reporters following a meeting with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On Wednesday, an embattled White House released more than 100 pages of e-mails related to talking points administration officials fashioned in the aftermath of last year's terror attack on a U.S. facility in Benghazi and Obama announced the ouster of current acting IRS chief Steven Miller.

Obama commented on those matters as well revelations earlier this week that the Justice Department secretly subpoenaed Associated Press phone records as part of an investigation of a leak of classified information.

Obama appeared alongside Erdogan and weighed in on U.S-Turkey coordination to stem bloodshed in Syria. Turkey is urging the U.S. take a bigger role on Syria. The Obama administration acknowledged last month that Bashar Assad has likely deployed chemical weapons against his own people, something that Obama said was a "red line."

Here's what the president said:

1:21 p.m. Obama is asked by a Turkish reporter how and when he thinks Assad will ousted from Syria.

"We would have preferred Assad to to two years ago, six months ago, two months ago," Obama responds "The answer is the sooner the better. There is no magic formula for dealing with an extraordinarily violent and difficult situation like Syria."

1:15 p.m. Obama is asked about the Justice Department's secretly obtaining Associated Press phone records and whether he continues to have confidence in his Attorney General Eric Holder.

Obama declines to talk particularly about the AP case, but offers some broad comments about leak investigations.

"Leaks related to national security can put people at risk," Obama said. "They can put men and women that I have sent into the battlefield at risk."

"I make no apologies" about national security leak investigations

On the flip side, he reiterates that there needs for "balance" and reporters need to be able to do investigative reporting for the good of democracy.

Obama adds that he has "complete confidence" in Attorney General Eric Holder.

1:09 p.m. A Turkish reporter gets the second question and asks, in part, if Assad has crossed Obama's red line by deploying chemical weapons against his people.

Obama responds: "I've said in the past we have seen evidence of chemical weapons inside Syria. It is important for us to get more particular evidence to understand what's going on" in Syria

Obama adds, "The use of chemical weapons is something the civilized world has recognized as out of bounds."

Obama says he reserves the option of taking military and diplomatic action against Syria, but notes whatever action takes that the United States is not going to take unilateral action.

1:02 p.m. The first question to Obama is on the IRS controversy. Obama has to pause and summons Marines with umbrellas to cover him and Erdogan as a rain shower comes through Washington.

"We are going to make sure that we are going to identify any structural or management issues to makes sure this doesn't happen again," Obama said. He said he looks forward to working with Congress on the matter and looking into ambiguous laws governing the IRS.

"The minutes I found about this, the main focus was to make sure things got fixed," he said.

Obama, however, seems to resist the idea of a special council being appointed to look into the agency's actions.

Before today's news conference, a White House official confirmed to USA TODAY that Obama will name a new acting IRS commissioner by the end of this week

Obama said on Wednesday that he's accepted the resignation of acting Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Steven Miller in the aftermath of revelations that agency officials were putting extra scrutiny on Tea Party groups' applications for tax-exempt status.

12:56 p.m. Erdogan begins his statement by offering condolences to the United States for last month's Boston Marathon bombing.

Erdogan says Syria was at the top of today's agenda in talks with Obama, and that he plans to discuss Syria in greater detail over dinner with Obama later tonight. Erdogan says he and Obama also spoke about the political situation in Iraq. "We would like to see a peaceful situation in Iraq," Erdogan said.

12:53 p.m. Before giving the floor to Erdogan, Obama weighs in on Benghazi. Obama called on Congress to take action to improve security at American embassies and fully-fund a proposal to increase security at U.S. posts in hotspots.

"We're going to need Congress as partners," Obama said.

12:47 p.m. Obama and Erdogan begin news conference in White House Rose Garden with opening remarks, well after the scheduled noon start time. Obama says that he and Erdogan focused their talks on Thursday on three areas: trade, security and Syria.

Obama also offered condolences for the recent massive double bombing in the southern Turkish town of Reyhanli.

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