— -- Marking an abrupt sea change in U.S. policy toward Cuba, President Obama said today he is open to visiting the communist Caribbean country before he leaves office.
“I don’t have any current plans, but let’s see how things evolve,” Obama told ABC “World News Tonight” anchor David Muir in an exclusive interview.
The president also told Muir he spoke by phone with Alan Gross, the American detained in Cuba for more than five years, as he flew back to Washington following his release from a Cuban prison.
More of the interview will air on “World News Tonight” at 6:30 pm ET. In the wide-ranging conversation, Muir also asked Obama about Fidel Castro, the 2016 presidential race and the Hollywood hacking scandal.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Mr. President, for you I don’t mind interrupting my corned beef sandwich.’ So I told him he has mustard on his upper lip,” Obama joked. “But we had a nice conversation. He obviously is joyful about being reunited with his family.”
“I certainly wouldn't rule out a presidential visit,” Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said earlier today.
“Like many Americans, he has seen that Cuba is a place where they have a beautiful climate and a lot of fun things to do,” he said. “So, if there's an opportunity for the president to visit, I'm sure he wouldn't turn it down.”
The White House says senior administration officials will immediately initiate direct contact with their Cuban counterparts to begin the process of normalizing diplomatic relations.