US President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on April 30, 2013. (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama held his first domestic press conference in two months on Tuesday, marking a rare occasion in which he took live questions from reporters.
In a breach of convention, rather than calling first on the Associated Press, the president gave the first question to Ed Henry of Fox News. In the past, the president has sometimes snubbed the organization, and a White House official has called it "not a news network."
The president responded to questions on a wide range of topics during the conference. Here is a brief overview.
President Obama told reporters Tuesday that he is "not familiar with this notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying" on Benghazi.
“There are people in your own State Department saying they have been blocked from coming forward,” Fox News’ Ed Henry remarked, “that they survived the terror attack and they want to tell their story.”
At least four officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency say they have been warned by unnamed Obama administration officials about testifying on the Benghazi terror attacks, and it was alleged yesterday that the State Department is preventing whistle-blowers from getting legal representation.
“Our job, with respect to Benghazi, has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies – not just in the Middle East but around the world – are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice," Obama said. "But I’ll find out, exactly, what you’re referring to.”
Here's the entire exchange:
"Even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps,” Obama warned of the implementation of his health care plan.
The first draft for people to fill out was as mind-numbing as a tax form, but the administration unveiled simplified application forms on Tuesday for health insurance benefits coming next year under the federal health care overhaul.
It now consists of a five-page "short form" that single people can fill out, but the application form for families still runs to 12 pages.
A Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday found that 4 in 10 are still unaware it's the law of the land. Some think it's been repealed by Congress, but in fact, it's still on track.
“Despite all the hue and cry and sky-is-falling predictions about this stuff, if you’ve already got health insurance that part of Obamacare that affects you, it’s pretty much in place,” Obama said during the presser. “What is left to be implemented is those provisions to help the 10 to 15 percent of the public that is unlucky enough that they don’t have health insurance.”
President Barack Obama says he is open-minded about immigration legislation being fashioned in the House. But he says he won't support it if it doesn't meet his criteria, which includes a "pathway to citizenship."
Obama is pushing Congress to reform the nation's immigration system as one of his top legislative priorities.
The president says he is backing bipartisan legislation from the "Gang of Eight" that would secure purportedly the border and provide a path to citizenship for some of the 11 million people living in the U.S. illegally.
He said the legislation, which was released earlier this month, meets his "basic criteria" and applauded their effort.
President Barack Obama says he's going to try yet again to close down the prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The president says he's asked a team of officials to review the issue and will take it back to Congress. He said Tuesday he's not surprised there are problems at the facility, where 100 of the 166 inmates are on a hunger strike.
Obama ordered the detention center closed upon taking office during his first term, but even a Democrat-controlled Congress objected to releasing or relocating the prisoners (particularly if it was within the United States). Releases and transfers have since become rare, giving detainees little hope of ever being released.
Asked about Syria, the president said that while there is evidence that chemical weapons were used inside the country, "we don't know when they were used, how they were used. We don't know who used them. We don't have a chain of custody that establishes" exactly what happened.
If it can be established that the Syrian government used chemical weapons, he added, "we would have to rethink the range of options that are available to us."
Obama said the administration was using all its resources to determine the facts about a weapon that he has said would be a "game changer" for U.S. policy in the war.
"If we end up rushing to judgment without hard, effective evidence ... we can find ourselves in a position where we can't marshal the international community in support what we do," he said. "It's important for us to do this in a prudent way."
Here's video of the president's remarks:
President Barack Obama says a national security review following the Boston Marathon bombings will look at whether there is more the government can do to stop people within the United States who might become radicalized and plan terror attacks.
One of the dangers the U.S. faces now, Obama said, is people who might decide to attack because of "whatever warped, twisted ideas they may have."
“What more can we do on that front that is looming on the horizon?” Obama said. “Is there more we can do to engage communities where there is the threat of self-radicalization?
Obama said that based on what he's seen so far, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security did what they were supposed to before the attack.
"This is hard stuff," he remarked.
President Barack Obama says he will wait until he meets with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto later this week before judging Mexico's moves to curtail broad access to U.S. security agencies in the battle against drug trafficking and organized crime
Obama, who will travel to Mexico City Thursday, said Nieto is "serious about reform." He said Mexican security changes appear to have more to do with internal Mexican coordination than with how they deal with the United States.
The Mexican government said Monday all contact for U.S. law enforcement will now go through the federal Interior Ministry.
Obama said: "I'm not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I've heard directly from them what exactly they are trying to accomplish."
NBA Center Jason Collins' Sexuality:
President Barack Obama says he told NBA center Jason Collins that he "couldn't be prouder of him" for coming out as gay while playing in a major sports league.
Speaking at the news conference Tuesday, Obama said Collins showed the progress the United States has made in recognizing that gays and lesbians deserve full equality. He said they deserve "not just tolerance but recognition that they're fully a part of the American family."
Obama thinks it's "great" the player could hypothetically say: "I’m still seven feet tall and can bang with Shaq and, you know, deliver a hard foul..."
Collins has played for six teams in 12 seasons, including this past season with the Washington Wizards, and is now a free agent.
He made his announcement in an online article Monday, and Obama called him to express support. Obama said people should be judged on their character and performance, not their sexual orientation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.