President Obama is taking question from reporters at the G20 Summit in Russia, with an expected emphasis on the situation in Syria.
Stay tuned below for the latest updates.
A top adviser to President Obama appeared to suggest Friday that the United States won’t go into Syria without Congress’s approval, but the administration said the comments are much ado about nothing.
Expect Obama to be asked about this today:
President Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Tony Blinken, said in an interview Friday morning that it is not the Obama administration’s “intention” to use military action without the approval of Congress.
Later, the administration clarified that it still believes President Obama has the right to take action on Syria, even without Congress, and that Blinken’s comments should not be taken as an indication of what the president might do or not do.
In the interview on NPR, Blinken said it is ”neither [the president's] desire nor intention to use that authority, absent Congress backing him.”
The comment is notable because the administration has generally not entertained the idea that an authorization vote could fail — even as that appears increasingly likely that it will, especially in the House.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Blinken’s comments should not be over-analyzed.
“Tony was saying what we have been saying, just with a slightly different formulation. There is no change in our position,” Hayden said. “As the president has said, he has the authority to act, but his intention is to do so with the approval of the Congress. As he said in Sweden, he believes they will vote to authorize the use of military force. I’m not going to speculate on the president’s decision-making if they don’t approve; we think they will.”
American Conservative Union head Al Cardenas makes his organization the latest conservative group to oppose intervention in Syria.
From his just-released statement:
“I oppose military intervention of any kind in the Syrian civil war at this time because such action would fail the ‘Reagan Test.’ It’s not in the vital interest of American national security.”
President Obama announced that he will make his case on military strikes on Syria during a speech to the American public on Tuesday from the White House.
“I’ll make the best case I can to the American people, as well as the international community,” Obama said in St. Petersburg, where he is attending the G-20 economic summit.
Obama has spoken to a small group of reporters in the Rose Garden and during a photo-op in the White House last week, but he has not delivered a lengthy address directly to the public.
“There is a growing recognition that the world cannot stand idly by,” Obama said.
Obama said the White House is likely to release a list Friday evening of the number of countries that have offered to support military action in Syria.
The Obama Administration has emphasized that, despite Britain and Russia not getting involved, there remain a number of allies committed to retaliating against the Assad regime for its alleged use of chemical weapons.
President Obama said the world cannot wait on the United Nations, saying its Security Council is in a state of “paralysis.”
“Given Security Council paralysis on this issue, if we are serious about upholding a ban on chemical weapons, then an international response is required, and that will not come through a Security Council action,” Obama said.
A key takeaway quote that is likely to be repeated, as President Obama argued that he’s not looking for an excuse to get involved in the Syrian civil war:
“I was elected to end wars, not start ‘em.”
Obama said his meeting this morning with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was “candid and constructive.”
Obama said they did not discuss Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who was granted temporary asylum in Russia..
“It was a candid and constructive conversation, which characterizes my relationship with him,” Obama said. “We discussed Syria, and that was primarily the topic of conversation. Mr. Snowden did not come up.”
Obama said he told Putin that he recognized the two didn’t see eye to eye on Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons, but that the two countries should still work together to try and resolve the conflict.
President Obama challenged the international community to join the U.S.-led effort to punish Syria President Bashar al-Assad’s regime over chemical weapon us.
“They always look to the United States. Why isn’t the United States doing something on this? The most powerful nation on earth,” Obama said. “But then the international community turns around when we are saying it’s time to take some responsibility and says, ‘Well, hold on a second, we’re not sure.’”
Obama acknowledged that the U.S. experience in the Iraq war “colors people’s views” about his proposed strikes on Syria.
“That’s the prism through which a lot of people are analyzing the situation,” he said. “I understand the skepticism.”
Obama noted his record of being opposed to the war as a senator, but he emphasized that any U.S. military action in Syria would be “limited and proportional.”