White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday he doesn't have a specific cutoff time for when President Barack Obama won't meet with another world leader before a foreign election.
The White House said previously that Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he comes to the U.S. to address a joint session of Congress on March 3 because it's too close to the Israeli elections two weeks later.
President Barack Obama listens as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct. 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
A reporter asked about Obama’s meting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in June 2013, prior to her re-election in September of that year. In other instances, Obama appeared in France with then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November 2011; six months later, Francois Hollande defeated Sarkozy to become president of France. More recently, British Prime Minister David Cameron visited the White House last week; British elections will be held in May.
"I can’t give you a specific time period. I’m not sure there is a big difference between, you know, 28 days or 45 days or 90 days or whatever it is," Earnest said. "I think we can all probably, as reasonable observers of the political process would, conclude that having a meeting about two weeks before a national election might raise questions in some quarters about whether or not that was an attempt to try to interfere and try to influence the outcome of a democratically held election. That is precisely what we are trying to avoid. We are trying to avoid even the appearance of doing so. That’s why the president has decided on this trip that is planned for March, that he will not be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu."
Asked later about Obama’s own visits with European leaders during his 2008 presidential campaign, Earnest said, "I do think there is a difference between a July visit in advance of a November election and a March visit in advance of a March election."
This post has been updated with additional quotes.