Hours after President Barack Obama announced new U.S. policy on getting back American hostages, White House spokesman Josh Earnest was asked whether the new directive is part of a pattern of Obama not enforcing the law.
Obama announced that the administration would no longer threaten the families of hostages with prosecution if they try to pay ransom to terrorist groups to get their loved ones back. Ransom payments could violate federal law against providing material support to terrorist groups.
Reporters pressed Earnest on whether this is just another example of Obama choosing which laws to enforce, referencing the president’s decision to impose deferred action on immigration violations, not enforcing marijuana law and not defending the Defense of Marriage Act.
“Do you understand how a dispassionate observer would conclude how the president, who is the chief enforcer of our laws, takes a somewhat cavalier view of the law, that sometimes it should be enforced and sometimes not?” Fox News' James Rosen asked.
Earnest responded, “I vigorously disagree” with such a conclusion.
“The chief law enforcement officer of the United States is the attorney general, Loretta Lynch, and it is the agency she runs that is responsible for making these prosecutorial decisions,” Earnest said.
Rosen followed, “So there is not a pattern here?”
“The pattern is that there have been prosecutorial decision made on a daily basis by the Department of Justice without political interference,” Earnest said.
Pressed on the no-prosecution-for-ransom point later, Earnest reiterated that "the tradition that is abided by scrupulously by this administration is the one that was followed by previous administrations, which is that it is the responsibility of the attorney general, the top law enforcement officer in the United States to make prosecutorial decisions."
"Loretta Lynch is imminently qualified to deal with that," he said.