'Checks Are in Place' to Avoid NSA Abuses

The president answers questions about Edward Snowden and tensions with Russia.
5:31 | 08/09/13

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Transcript for 'Checks Are in Place' to Avoid NSA Abuses
This is a special report from ABC news. I'm Dan company or witness ABC news digital special reports and we are looking at the east room of the White House there where it for the first time since April. President Obama will take questions from the Washington press corps. From government surveillance programs to Russia -- there is a host of issues that he is likely to address before taking as a vacation on Martha's Vineyard. So join us on -- set the stage DC's best right here in New York ABC news political director Rick Klein senior Washington correspondent -- felony. Guys thanks for being with us today Rick -- start with you lots of ground to cover what -- we definitely expected to hear from the president this afternoon. We've been told by the White House that they'll be making some news on the National Security Agency. Programs and announcing some additional steps of course this in the in the wake of -- -- being a free man big tensions with Russia you know he be asked about that. And there are so many hot spots right now than before the president goes on vacation he always going to be asked about a range of them it is a tough time for the presidency. Not just abroad but also at home and I think all of those range of issues including the NSA program likely to -- today. And that seems to -- -- -- first divorce a lot of people on their minds if the president does concede that there are issues in the NSA surveillance program. How exactly does he square with the charges that are being leveled against him that. Were made public by Edward Stone. I. And it's really interest -- mean Edward Stone has forced president Obama's hand here. In a large degree I mean they're pushing the White House to have come out and say look here are NSA programs a surveillance firms perhaps we're not as transparent. As they could have been so if the president no way deny that at all -- -- if he's watching from around Moscow whoever he is at the moment. I think he did forces and a little bit here but -- -- right it'll be a whole range of issues are discussed. Not just as we don't know what the headline will be but probably not this. All right and the president on his way to the podium let's listen -- please have seat. Over the past few weeks. I've been talking about what I believe should be our number one priority is a country. Building a better bargain for middle class. And for Americans who want to work their way into the middle class. The same time. I'm focused on my number one responsibility as commander in chief and that's keeping the American people safe. In recent days we've been reminded once again about. The threats to our nation. As I said at the National Defense University back -- -- In meeting those threats we have to strike the right balance between protecting our security. And preserving our freedoms. And as part of this rebalancing I called for a review of our surveillance programs. Unfortunately rather than an orderly and lawful process. To debate these issues -- come up with appropriate reforms. Repeated leaks of classified information have initiated the debate in a very passionate but not always fully informed way. Now keep in mind that as a senator I express helping skepticism about these programs. And as president I've taken steps to make you work. That they have strong oversight by all three branches of government. -- clear safeguards to prevent abuse and protect the rights the American people. Given the history of abuse by governments. It's right to ask questions about surveillance. Particularly as technology. Is reshaping every aspect of our lives. I'm also mindful of how these issues are viewed overseas because American leadership around the world depends. Upon the example of American democracy and American -- Because what makes us different from other countries is not simply our ability to secure our nation it's the way we do it. Would open debate and democratic process. In other words it's not enough for me as president to have confidence in these programs the American people need to have confidence in them as well. And that's why over the last few weeks I've consulted members of congress who come at this issue from many different perspectives. I've asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review where our counterterrorism efforts and our values come -- attention. And I directed my national security team to be more transparent and to pursue reforms of our laws and practices. And so today -- like to discuss for specific steps not all inclusive but some specific steps that we're going to be taking. Very shortly to move the debate forward. First. I will work with congress to pursue appropriate reforms. To section. 215 of the Patriot Act. The program that collects telephone records. As I've said this program is an important tool in our effort to disrupt terrorist plots. And it does not allow the government to listen to any phone calls without a war. But given the scale of this program I understand the concerns of those who would worry that it could be subject to abuse. So after having a dialogue -- members of congress and civil libertarians I believe that there are steps we can take to give. The American people additional confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse. For instance we can take steps to put in place greater oversight and greater transparency. And constraints on the use of this -- so I look forward to working with congress. To meet those objectives. Second. All work with congress to improve the public's confidence in the oversight conducted by the foreign intelligence surveillance court known as the -- And -- -- was created by congress to provide judicial review. A certain intelligence activities so that a federal judge must find that our actions are consistent with the constitution. However to build greater confidence. I think we should consider some additional changes to the fast. One of the concerns the people raise is that a judge reviewing a request from the government to conduct program -- surveillance only here's one side of the story. Make tilted to four in favor of security. May not pay enough attention to liberate. And while I've got confidence in the court and I think they've done a fine job I think we can provide greater assurances that the court is looking. At these issues from both perspectives security and privacy. So specifically we can take steps to make sure civil liberties concerns have an independent voice. In appropriate cases -- -- that the government's position is challenged. By an adversary. Number three. We can and must be more transparent. So I've directed the intelligence community to make public as much information about these programs as possible. We've already be classified unprecedented information about the NSA but we can go for. So in my direction the Department of Justice will make public the legal rationale for the government's collection activities under section 215 of Patriot Act. The NSA is taking steps to put in place a full time civil liberties and privacy officer. And released information that details its mission authorities and oversight. And finally the intelligence community is creating a website that -- serve as a hub for further transparency. And this'll give Americans and the world the ability to learn more about what our intelligence communities does. And what it doesn't do. How it carries out its mission and -- -- Fort. Were forming a high level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies. We need new thinking for a new air. We now have. To unravel terrorist plots by finding a needle in a haystack. Of global telecommunications. And meanwhile technology has -- governments. Including our own unprecedented capability to monitor communications. So I'm testing this independent group to step back and review our capabilities. Particularly our surveillance technologies. And they'll consider how we can maintain the trust of the people. How we can make sure that there perhaps leaves no abuse in terms of -- these surveillance technologies are used. Asked how surveillance impacts our foreign policy. Particularly in an age when more more information is becoming public. And they don't provide an interim report in sixty days and a final report by the end of this year so we can move forward with a better understanding of -- -- Programs impact -- security. For privacy. And our foreign policy. So all these steps are designed to ensure that the American people can trust that our efforts are in line with our interests and our values. And to others around the world I want to make clear once again that America is not interested in spying on ordinary people. Our intelligence is focused above all on finding the information that's necessary to protect our people and in many cases protect our allies. It's true we have a significant capabilities. What's also true as we show a restraint that many governments around the world don't even think. To do refuse to show. That includes by the way some America's most vocal critics. So we shouldn't forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information on one under strict. Guidelines and for Merrill purposes. And the willingness. Some other governments to throw her own citizens in prison for what they say on one. And let me close one additional thought. The men and women of our intelligence community work every single day to keep us safe because they love this country. -- -- -- -- -- patriots. And I believe that those who have lawfully raised their voices on behalf of privacy and civil liberties are also patriots who love our country. And wanted to live up to our highest ideals. So -- -- we're gonna resolve our differences the United States through. Vigorous public debate guided by our constitution. -- reverence for history as a nation of laws. Then with -- respect for the facts. Salt would that -- and take some questions and let's see who we've got here. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Thank you Mr. President -- want to ask about foreign policy fallout from the disclosure of the NSA programs that you discussed. Your spokesman said yesterday that there's no question that the US relationship with Russia has gotten worse since Vladimir Putin took office. How much of that decline do you attribute directly to mr. Putin. And given that you seem to have had a good working relationship with his predecessor. Also will there be any additional punitive measures. Taken against Russia for granting asylum to -- snowed in. Or is canceling the September summit really all you can do given the host of issues the US -- Russian corporation for its. I think there's always been some tension and -- US Russian relationship after the fall of the Soviet Union. There's been cooperation in some areas there's been competition and others. It is true bat in my first four years. In working -- -- Medvedev that we made a lot of progress and we got start done. Murder the start to -- We were able to cooperate together on Iran sanctions. They provided us. Help in terms of supplying our troops in Afghanistan. We were able to get Russia into the WTO which is not as good for Russia it's good for our companies and businesses because they're more likely. -- to follow international norms and rules. So. There's been a lot of good work that has been done. And that is gonna continue to be done. What's also true is is that when President Putin who was prime minister when Medvedev was president. Came back and -- power I think we saw more rhetoric. On the Russian side that was anti American. That. Played in -- some of the old stereotypes. About the Cold War contest between the United States and Russia. And I've encouraged mr. prudent to. Think. Forward -- -- -- Almost issues with mixed success. And -- I think the latest episode. Is just one more in a number of emerging differences that we've seen over the last several months around Syria. Around. Human rights issues. Where. Feel it is probably appropriate for us to take a pause. Reassess. Where -- that Russia's going. What our core interests are. And calibrate the relationship so that we're doing things that are good for the United States. And hopefully good for Russia as well but recognizing -- there just can be some differences -- not going to be able to it completely disguised. And that's okay. Keep in mind that although I'm not attending the summit. -- -- be going to Saint Petersburg because Russia's hosting the G each morning that's important business in terms of our economy and our our jobs and all the issues that are of concern to Americans. I know that one question that's been raised as. How do we approach the Olympics. One just make very clear right now I do not think it's appropriate to boycott. The Olympics we've got a bunch of Americans have their work training hard. Who are doing everything they can't to succeed. Nobody is more feminine than me by some of -- anti gay and lesbian legislation that you've been seeing him in Russian but as I said. Just this week. I've spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia -- a number of other countries where we continue to work with -- -- we have a strong disagreement. On this issue. And that one of things I'm really looking forward to -- Maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bring an -- gold or silver bronze. Which I think would go a long way in. Rejecting -- bit of -- kind of attitudes that were we're seeing there. -- And of Russia doesn't have. Gay or lesbian. Athletes then. The prime of their team we -- He keep in mind that -- that. Feel our decision to. Not participate in the summit was not simply around mr. -- and had to do with the fact that frankly on a whole range of issues where we think we can make some progress Russia has not moved. And so we don't consider that strictly punitive were gonna assess. Where the relationship. Can advance US interests and increased peace and stability and prosperity around the world -- -- and we're gonna keep on working with. Where. We have differences. We're gonna say so clearly and my hope is is that over time. Mr. -- man Russia recognized. That. Rather than a zero sum competition. Infective. The two countries are working together we can probably advance. The betterment of both peoples. Chalked up. Thank you Mr. President given that you just announced a whole -- of reforms based on. Essentially the leaks and -- Snowden. Made on on all of these surveillance programs. Does that change it is use your mind -- changed about him is he now more whistle blower Finney is a how. -- you call them at one point or somebody that should be file charges and should leave -- be provided more protection. Is -- -- patriot you just use those words and then just a follow up on the personal. On a follow -- -- personal or make sure you and everybody is asking one question we're -- now I understand this it was a part of our question need an answer and you get. Can you get stuff done with Russia fake stuff on without having a good personal relationship with -- -- bear personal pleasure report more we have demonstrations. There candor -- -- Oftentimes are constructive. I -- the press likes to focus on body language and he's got that kind of slouch looking like the board kid. In the back -- classroom. But the -- is there -- -- in conversations together. Oftentimes very productive so. The issue here really as -- where where they want to rush. It's substance on policy. Front and -- Right now this is just a matter of where. Mr. prudent and the Russian people wanna go. I -- they are looking forward into the 21 century and how they can advance their economy. Make sure that some are -- concerns run counter terrorism. Are managed effectively been I think we can. Work together. If issues are framed as if US four men. Russia should be against it or we're going to be finding ways where we can -- each other. At every opportunity. Then probably we don't get as much stuff don't. -- now I've forgotten your first question which presumably was the more and more importantly. I don't think mr. Snowden was -- -- As I said in my opening remarks. I called for a thorough review of our surveillance. Operations. Before mr. stone may -- is -- My preference. And I think. The American people's preference would've been for a lawful. Orderly examination of these laws. A thoughtful fact based debate. That would then lead us to. A better place because I never make claims that all -- the surveillance. Technologies. That. Have developed since the time some these laws have been put in place. Somehow didn't require potentially some additional reforms that's exactly what -- called for. Com. So the fact is that mr. salzman -- -- -- three felons. If in fact he believes that what he did was right then. Like every American citizen he can come here appear before. The court where they lawyer. And make his case. If the concern was that. Somehow this was the only way to get this information out to the public. I signed an executive order. Well before mr. -- and leaked this information. That. Provided whistle blower protection to the intelligence community for the first time. So there were other avenues available for somebody whose conscience was stirred and thought that. Having said that. Once the leaks have happened. What we've seen is information come out and drips and drabs. Sometimes come and outside -- Once information is out. The administration. Comes and tries to correct the record but by that time. It's -- later we've moved on and -- general impression has I think taken hold not only among the American public but also around the world. That somehow were out there are willing -- just. Sucking in information on everybody. And doing what we pleased with. That's not the case. -- law specifically prohibit us from. Surveilling. US persons. Without a warrant. And there are whole range of cigars -- have been put in place to make sure that. That basic principle is by the -- But but what is clear is that. Whether because of the instinctive buyers create. Intelligence community -- keep -- very close. And probably. What's -- fair criticism is my. Assumption. Bad if we had checks and balances from the courts and congress that. That traditional system of checks and balances would be enough to give people assurance that. These programs will run properly. You know that assumption I think proved to be. Undermined by what happened this after the -- I think. People have questions about this program. And so so as a consequence. I think it is important for us. -- go ahead and answer these questions when I'm going to be pushing me -- -- rather than we have. -- come out here in her -- come out there and a tale come out there let's just put up a whole wealth and after -- people know exactly what they're looking at. Let's examine what is working what's not are -- additional protections -- we put in place and let's move forward. And there's no doubt the mr. snow's leaks. Triggered. A much more rapid. And passionate. Response. -- would have been the case if I'd simply a point of this review board to go through. And -- sat down with congress and we've -- this thing through they would have been less exciting. It would not have generated as much press. I actually think we would have gotten to the same place. And we were done so without putting at risk. Our national security and some very vital ways that we are able to get intelligence that we need to secure the country. -- -- Thank you Mr. President. I'd like to ask you about this debate that's playing itself out an editorial pages in the Blogosphere even in the senate Democratic Caucus about the choice you eventually will make the next Federal Reserve Chairman and there is a perception. Among Democrats -- Larry Summers has the inside track and perhaps you've made some assurances to him about that Janet Yellen has the vice chair of the Federal Reserve the many women in the senate where Democrats who believe they're breaking the grass ceiling there would be historic and important are you annoyed by the sort of roiling debate do you find it anyway unseemly. And do you believe this will be one of the most important the most important economic decisions you make -- The remainder of your presidency. It is definitely our most important economic officers -- -- -- maker in the -- in my presidency the Federal Reserve Chairman. Is not just. One of the most important economic policy makers in America it's -- he or she is one of the most important. Policy makers in the world. And that person -- we will stay on. After -- present. So. This along with Supreme Court appointments is probably as important -- decision -- I make as president. I have a range of outstanding candidates you've mentioned two of them mr. Summers and mr. -- ms. -- And several terrific people. I think to be. The perception that mr. Summers might have an inside track simply had to do we. A bunch. Attacks that I was hearing on mr. Summers preemptively. Which is service standard Washington exercise. That I don't like. Because when somebody's worked hard for me and worked hard on behalf of the American people. And I know -- The quality of those people and I see him getting slapped around them for us. For no reason before they've even been nominated for anything. Then I want to make sure that somebody is standing up form I felt the same way when people were attacking. Susan Rice. Before she was nominated for anything so. -- I tend to defend folks who I think have done a good job and don't deserve -- tax. But I consider them both outstanding candidates my main criteria. I've seen this before but -- -- repeated. -- and printer for the Federal Reserve chairman is somebody -- Understands we've got a dual mandate. A critical part of the job is making sure that. We keep inflation in check. Our monetary policy is sound. Of the dollar sound those overall. Critical components. The job and we've seen what happens when the -- not paying attention. Here we saw prior -- Paul Volcker coming in a place inflation shooting up. In ways that really damage the real economy. But the other mandate is. Full employment. And right now. You if you look at the biggest challenges we have. The challenges not inflation. The challenges. We still got too many people out of work too many long term unemployed. Too much slack in unit in the economy. And we're not growing as fast we we -- and so I want a fair. Chairman who's able to look at those. Issues. And have -- perspective. That. Keeps an -- on inflation make sure there were announcing artificial bubbles and place. But also recognize -- you know what the big part of my job right now is to make sure their economies growing quickly. And robustly and is sustained. And durable. So that people who work hard and is comparable to find a job and quite frankly I think both. Larry Summers and Janet Yellen. Are highly qualified candidates -- couple other candidates were highly qualified as well. I'll make the decision in not in the fall he. -- you know except I just told so. You know major -- -- defender of somebody was saying something the one true veteran. I really was in fact -- -- us. Carol Lee. And Carol congratulations on Hudson. You have pictures. I do OK -- -- is that rotisserie and. -- -- on a slow news week. I wanted to ask you about your -- on. Surveillance issues -- part of what you're talking about today is restoring the public's trust and the public has seen you. Evolved from one -- in the US and it's now. And and even as recently as June and you said that -- the process was such that people should be comfortable with then and now you're saying. You're making these -- forums and people should be comfortable with those so -- to the public trust you on this issue and why did you change your position multiple -- -- I think it's important. To say -- -- personal. -- -- ball in my assessment of the actual programs. My my consistently. Have said -- when I came in office. I evaluated -- -- -- -- programs I've been critical of when I was in the senate. When I looked through specifically what was being done. My determination was that. The two programs in particular there have been addition to 157 altered. Offered valuable. Intelligence. That helps us protect the American people and -- worth preserving. What we also saw was that. Some bolts need to be tightened up on some of the program so we initiated some additional oversight reforms compliance officers. Audits and so. And if you look at the reports even the disclosures of mr. -- was put forward. All the stories that have been written. What you're not reading about is the government actually abusing. These programs. And -- listening in on people's phone calls or inappropriately reading people's emails what. Your curing about is. The prospect. That these could be abused. Cup -- the reason -- -- abuses because there these checks are imports. And those abuses would be against the law and would be -- against the borders of the the -- Having said that no. If you were outside of the intelligence community if you were the ordinary person and you start seeing how much -- headline saying US Big Brother. Looking down on -- Collecting telephone records etc. Well. Understandably people would be concerned. I would be too if I wasn't. Inside the government. And so in light of the changed environment where a whole. Set of questions have been raised. Some in the most sensationalize manner possible. Where these leaks are released. Drip by drip. You know one week to -- to maximize. Attention. And see if you know they can. Catch us at some imprecision on something. In light of that it makes sense for us to. Go ahead. Lay out. What exactly we're going to have a discussion where you. Congress have discussion where. Industry which is also impacted by this have a discussion where the civil libertarians and see. Can we do this better. I think I think the main thing I want to emphasize. Is. I don't have an interest. In the people the -- don't have an interest. In doing anything other -- band. Making sure. That. Where we can prevent a terrorist attack where we can get information. Ahead of time. That that were able to carry out that critical task. We do not have an interest. In. Doing anything other than that. And we tried to set up a system that. Is this fail safe -- so for at least we've been able to think -- to make sure that. These programs are not abused. But. People may have better ideas. And people may want -- slightly. -- the balance between. The information we can get. Vs. The incremental. Encroachments on privacy that. If -- already take place might take place in the future administration war as technologies developed for them. And the other thing that's happening is that as technology develops further. Technology itself may provide us some additional sectors. So for example of people don't have confidence that the wall. The checks and balances of the court. And congress are sufficient to give us confidence that governments not -- Well maybe we can embed technologies in -- that. Prevent the snooping. Regardless of what government wants to do. Mean there may be some technological fixes. That. Provide another layer of assurance. And so those are the kinds of things that I -- I'm looking forward to -- have a conversation about. And I can't. Twelve who live in the fact that I said. That the programs are operating. In a way that prevents abuse. That continues to be true without the reforms. The question is how to Wear make the American people more comfortable. Current. If I tell. Michelle. That I did the vicious about granted in the White House I don't do dishes that much but back in the day. And and -- little skeptical. Well. I'd like her to trust me but. Maybe I need to bring her back and -- -- vicious. And not just never take my word for and so. You know -- The program is. I am comfortable -- the program currently is not being abused. I'm comfortable that if the American people examined. Exactly what was taking place how it was being used what the safeguards work. That they would say you know what. These folks are following the law. And doing what they say -- -- But. It is absolutely true -- -- the expansion of technology. This is an area that's moving very quickly. -- if the revelations that have. Depleted public trust that if there are some additional things that we can do two -- that trust back up and we should don't. Jonathan -- Thank you Mr. President. You have said that core al-Qaeda has been decimated its leaders are on the run now that we've seen this terror threat that has resulted in embassies closed route. The Arab world much of Africa do you still believe that al-Qaeda has been decimated. If I can -- in the interest of transparency can you tell us about these drone strikes that we've seen in the last couple of weeks in Yemen. What I said. In this same. National Defense University speech back in -- That are referred to earlier. Is that core al-Qaeda. Is on its heels has been decimated. But what I also said was meant. Al-Qaeda and other extremist have metastasized. Into -- regional groups that can pose significant dangers and I'd refer you back to that speech just back and my. -- -- said specifically. That although there are less likely to be able to carry out spectacular homeland. Attacks like 9/11. They have the capacity. To go after armistice. They have the capacity potentially. To go after our businesses. They have the capacity to. Be. Destabilizing. And disruptive. In countries where the security apparatus is -- And that's exactly what we are seeing right now so. It's entirely consistent to save -- this. Tightly organized. And relatively centralized. Al-Qaeda that attacked us on 9/11. Has been. Broken apart and is. Very weak and does not have a lot of operational capacity. And to say we still have these regional. Organizations like. A QAP. Pick -- posed a threat that can drive potentially a truck bomb into an embassy wall. And can kill some people. And so. That requires us then -- Make sure that we have a strategy that. Is strengthening most partners so that they've got their own capacity to -- -- of what. Are potentially manageable regional threats if these countries are a little bit stronger and have more effective CT and so forth. It means that. We've got continue to be vigilant and go after. Known terrorists who are. Potentially carrying out plots -- plots or are going to. Strengthen their capacity overtime girls are always testing the boundaries -- maybe we can try this maybe we can do that. For business clear ongoing process. We are not going to completely eliminate terrorism. What we can do is to weaken it and it. Strengthen. Our our partnerships -- such a way that it does not pose. The kind of horrible threat that we saw. On 9/11. And deal I'm not gonna discuss. Specific operations. That have taken place. Again in my speech in -- I was very specific about. How we make these determinations. About potential lethal strikes so reprieve for you to that speech. I will not. Have a discussion about. Operational. Issues. Ed Henry. He would defend me as well I -- OK thank you. I want to ask about two important dates are coming up October 1 get implement your signature health care law -- decided on your own. To delay key part of that I wonder if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement. Could your successor down the road pick and choose whether bill. Implement your law and keep -- in place. And on September 11 while the first anniversary of -- Ghazi. And you said -- was -- September 12 make no mistake will bring to justice the killers who attacked -- people eleven months later where others have. Well be. I also serve -- we get bin Laden and -- give him an eleven months. So. We. Have. -- Having the public there's a sealed indictment. It's -- for a reason. But we are intent on. Capturing. Those who carried out this attack. And -- -- stay on until we get -- I will leave -- that but but this remains a top priority for us. Anybody who attacks Americans. Anybody -- tragically. Four Americans were serving us in a very dangerous place. We're gonna do everything we -- -- to get those who period up as a tax. With respect to health care. I didn't simply choose -- the latest on my own this was in consultation. With businesses all across the country. Many of whom are supportive. Be Affordable Care Act. But. And who. Many of whom by the way are already providing health insurance to their employees but were concerned about the operational details. Changing their HR operations and they've got a lot of employees. Which could be costly for them and then suggesting that there may be easier ways that to do this. Now. What's true it is is that in a normal. Political environment. They would've been easier. For me to simply. Call up the speaker and say you know what. This is a -- that doesn't go to the essence of the law. It has to do we have for example are we able to simplify the at a station of employers. As to. Whether there are providing health insurance or not. Good looks like there maybe some better ways to do this let's make a -- technical change the law that would be the normal. Thing that I would prefer. To do. But we're not in the normal atmosphere around here when it comes to foreign -- Obama care. We did have the executive authority to do so. And we did so but this doesn't go to the core of implementation let me tell you what is the -- implementation -- -- taken place as we speak. Right now. -- 85% of Americans who already have health insurance. They are benefiting from being able to keep their -- on their on their plan if their -- -- twice six or younger. That's benefiting millions of young people around the country which is why. Lack of insurance among young people -- actually gone down. That's. In large part attributable to the steps that we tech. You've got millions of people who received rebates because part of the Affordable Care Act was to say that if insurance company isn't spending 80%. Your premium on your health care -- gets money back and long bowl. People have been getting their money back it means the folks who've been bumping up up we're lifetime limits on their insurance. That leaves them vulnerable. That doesn't exist seniors have been getting. Discounts on their prescription drugs that's happening right now free preventive care. Mammograms contraception. That's happening right now I'm at a young man today on bill signing I was -- -- The student loan bill who came up to me and said thank you. Here's he could have been more than -- -- point five point six years old thank you. I have cancer thanks to be affordable care to working -- the California program I was able to get -- and -- now. In remission. And so right now people learned now what happens on October 1 in 53 days is for the remaining 15%. Of the population that doesn't have health insurance. They're going to be able to go on a website. For call -- call center. And sign up. For. Affordable quality health insurance. Today significantly cheaper rate. And what they can get right now on the individual market. And if even -- lower premiums they still can't afford it we're gonna be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them by. And between October 1 in the march there'll be an open. Enrollment period in which millions of Americans for the first -- going to be able to get. Affordable health care. Now. I think that really interesting question. Is why it is that my friends in the other party. Had made the idea of preventing these people from getting -- -- -- holy Grail. They're number one priority. The one unifying principle. In the Republican Party at the moment. Is making sure that. Thirty million people don't have health care. And presumably. Repealing all those benefits I just mentioned. Kids saying other parents plan. Seniors getting discounts on -- prescription drugs. I guess a return to lifetime limits on insurance. People with preexisting conditions. Continuing to be blocked from being able to get health insurance. That's. Hard to understand as a an agenda that is gonna strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say well we're gonna replace it with something better there's. Not even a pretense now but they're gonna replace it was something better. That the notion is simply that. Boasts thirty million people. For the 150 million were benefiting from the other aspects informal care will be better off about. That's their assertion not backed by fact. Not backed by any evidence. It's just become. An ideological fixation. -- -- tell -- what. The wrong about that. There is no doubt that in implementing the affordable character program of the significance. They're going to be some glitches no doubt about. They're going to be things where we say you know what we -- thought of that earlier or this would work a little bit better or this needs an adjustment. That was true Social Security that was true of Medicare. That was truly Children's Health Insurance Program that was true of prescription drug program part B that was rolled out by a Republican president and supported by. Republicans. Who were still in the House of Representatives. That's true by the way. A car company rolling out a new car it's true. Apple rolling out the new iPad. So. You you -- be able to. Whenever you want during the course of the next six months and -- the next year. Find occasions where he's. In -- -- back could've been done will be better or. Mapping their they're kind of -- an administrative change that's not how. It was originally thought this thing was gonna work. Yes. Exactly. Because. Our goal is actually deliver. High quality affordable health care for people and to reform the system so. Costs start going down and people getting -- during a better bang for the buck. I -- no bonus for that. And let me just make one last point about -- the idea that you would shut down the government. Unless. You prevent thirty million people from getting health care. There's a bad idea. Where you should be thinking about is how can we advance. And improve. Ways. -- of middle class families to have some security some -- -- they work hard making it ahead markets can get him. Just feel. Thank you Mr. President and following on what you just sat. Republicans in the house might give you that choice soon to either -- allow the government to shut down or see Obama -- defund it. Would you choose to let the government shut down to ensure that obamacare remains Condit. Why we are I'm not gonna -- Engage in hypotheticals. I can tired of the American people. Would have difficulty understanding why we would weaken our economy shut down our government shut down vital services. Have people who are not getting paid. Who then can go to restaurants or shop for clothes -- All the other things that. We're doing here. Because. Republicans have determined that. They don't want to see these folks get healthcare. Again. They they used to say they have a replacement that had never actually arrived. I'm have been hearing about -- -- replacement for two years now I just don't hear about because. Basically. They don't have an agenda. To provide health insurance to people at affordable rates. And that the idea that you would shut down the government at a time when the recovery is getting some traction. Where were growing although not as fast as we need to -- the housing market is recovering although not as fast as we would like. That we would precipitate another crisis here in Washington. That no economist thinks is a good idea. I'm assuming you meant. They will not take that. That path. I -- I have confidence that common sense in the end will prevail. -- will see we'll see what happens we got a couple months. Fairly recently. -- probably reporter left. -- -- -- Thank you Mr. President. Part of the political logic behind immigration reform was -- strong showing by Latino voters last November. That doesn't seem to resonate with a lot of house Republicans who represented overwhelmingly white districts. What other political leverage can you bring to bear to help move a bill in the house. Well. We've got an economic report that shows that our economy would be a trillion dollar stronger forget immigration reform them. We've got. Evidence that our housing market would be stronger. If immigrants are. In a situation in which having paid a fine having paid back taxes. That they now have the ability to actually enter into the housing market. We've got. Strong evidence that. Are. Technological and -- -- church would be better. If we get immigration reform bill. We know that the senate bill strengthens border secured. Puts unprecedented resources on top of that on president resource of -- report on to border security so if your main priority is border security. I'd think you'd want to vote for this bill. We know that. Senate bill creates a system in which employers. -- held accountable for when they hire. Undocumented workers. This is something the people say is a bad thing I -- let's make sure. That that system were holding -- accountable is in place. So. When I hear the opposition. Two immigration reform. I just run through the list of things they're concerned about. I look at what the senate bill doesn't assert myself you don't want -- -- and senate bill actually. Improves. The situation. On every issue that they say -- concerned about. Not what they may argue is that doesn't solve the problem 100%. I don't know -- long that solves a problem a 100%. Social Security lifted millions of seniors out of poverty but there still some forcing others. The Civil Rights Act in voting rights act drastically reduced discrimination in America but -- still discrimination. -- -- -- -- It just means that. They're very few human problems that. 400% -- So. -- what are what I see right now is a strong bipartisan -- coming out of the senate. I think that the speaker and others have said they need to do something. And -- urged when they get back. To do something. Put forward a bill that has. An opportunity to actually pass. It may not be precisely what's in the senate bill my preference would be for them to go -- -- the senate bill but if they've got some additional ideas I think. The -- happy to consider them. -- -- -- -- On the floor. Put up for a vote. I am absolutely certain that the votes for the senate bill. Which strengthens border security. Demands responsibility from. Undocumented workers to. Pay a fine. Pay penalties get to the back of -- line reforms are illegal immigration system. Holds employers accountable I am absolutely confident that if that bill. Was on the floor of the house. -- would -- So that is the challenge right now is not that there -- -- -- a majority of house members just like a majority of -- members who. Are prepared to support this bill. The problem is internal. Republican. Caucus politics. And that's what the American people don't want us to be worried about. Don't worry about your Washington politics. Solve problems. And this is one where you've actually got some pretty broad consensus I don't know an issue where you got -- the chamber of commerce. Evangelicals. Student groups. You name it. Supportive of the bill. Let's get a -- Part thank you very much -- but it. And -- have a the president the last word in before heading onto a bit of summer vacation on Martha's Vineyard. So to break down probably almost one hour news conference -- he how this afternoon and Friday. Is ABC news political director Rick Klein also our senior Washington correspondent -- Sony is -- to talk about some of the issues that were brought up today and Rick I want to start with you. The president spent the first ten minutes. Of this after his news conference discussing the NSA surveillance program what's wrong what's right. How is that gonna go over with critics right now. People not assuage critics but let's let's be clear here this is rather stunning -- the president. Came -- said he -- -- he's working on some of these pieces anyway but none of this would have happened without the Edwards known leaks -- we have seen. A major change of stance of the administration. Big documents being declassified. The ability for much larger and broader public debate as a result of this. And some real movement from the administration for the first time on this program in and bring it mortal like the president has said often that he wanted to have a public debate -- but it took. These public disclosures to to move the needle. -- -- anyone who believes that we wouldn't see these changes. Without the the disclosure of the unauthorized disclosures from mr. -- now there's going to be critics who point out that this is it we're -- a task forces and we're talking about privacy -- others and we're talking about bureaucracies here and not about -- policy changes however this is movement. -- what -- talking newsroom just -- and Jeff you -- just jump -- us as well. One of the questions that was asked by one of news reporters on there was a fact of of what he felt when he was a senator in fact the president even address that at the very beginning of that announcement -- -- when he was a senator. He looks very critically at these kinds of surveillance programs. And a reporter asked the question how have you evolved on this and the president senseless and I haven't evolved on this was that night. Was at a sidestepped to it or is that it was it was that truly that the same you want to process that he had when he was a senator. I think anyone who's been watching this president very closely as Rick and I have really from the beginning and as that reporter Carol -- from the Wall Street Journal has. There has no question been an evolution in the president's thinking. But he has more information now he sees that presidential daily brief. Every day now in the morning in the Oval Office that he would not seizing the senator but. Think -- right when you look at the reaction here I'm looking at two people that -- reaction coming -- in real time senator Mark Udall. Of Colorado a big. Opponent he's a liberal Democrat he's an opponent of the NSA program he's praising the administration here but he's saying look I'm going to make sure that this is not their final step. Tough words from congressman Peter king of new York Republican. You know longtime chairman of the homeland security committee. He is saying that he called a quote a monumental failure that this president is trying to review these NSA program so. I think the reaction from Republicans. Coming out of this is going to be interesting to watch as of now up until now Republicans have largely been supportive of the president almost entirely supported the president on these NSA programs he may lose -- support there. And it is the president obviously -- a great deal of the reforms he wants to put in place from his surveillance programs the top of bad news conference that then very quickly. The question started to focus primarily on Russia and obviously to Russian diplomats are in Washington today meeting with secretary of defense and the secretary of state. But this all coming after the president had canceled -- one on one president with Russia's president. And Rick I want to ask you about this is the president was free candid about his relationship with -- himself. Dan I had a mental image of the translator taking from English to -- the fact that President Obama if I just said that the President Putin is like the board kid in the back of a class that's extraordinary we never heard that -- never said that about Gorbachev -- put it that way. I think he's clearly the -- -- is -- where he wants it to be it's a major disappointment this president. To have gotten to this point Snowden is the last straw as he points out that is the most public straw as well you have a range of issues nuclear issues Syria. That -- and we haven't been able to make much progress with Russia and the president I think. He views it on a personal level is as -- -- find working relationship with with food but the good of course the the reality is in these actions and the fact that they have to take this step. And say they won't be meeting one on one when the president is it is -- -- home country a couple weeks. Jeff if you get our job and I want to ask you about that because the president did address this visit with the way -- disappointed -- the fact that he did -- -- has been met a kid that slot as the back in the classroom. Does that lend us and to some insight of how the president. Views the media as far as how we cover because we -- talk extensively not only about the content but the delivery in which these messages are being portrayed. No question and President Obama certainly would not be the first president who is -- little agitated by house. The press sort of describes those meetings with those you know foreign leaders. We're still talking Noory I guess it's recently stopped talking about the President Bush was -- -- famously giving a back massage to a German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And and President Obama was staring down Putin Putin was probably doing a better job of staring down president Obama's up. I think there's no question he's slightly agitated there's more commentary now on Twitter on FaceBook social -- other things but the substance of this is clear that their relationship. Has broken down their relationship is is considerably -- and that is significant. Did did that I ask you both -- -- to weigh in on this one because the president said earlier this week on the Tonight Show that he obviously condemned Russia's laws anti gay laws and this is all. Proceeding in the Olympics coming up in 2014. Was -- a stronger rhetoric that he came out with today because -- -- He he hits and the point that nobody is more offended by those laws that he is that's right and he wasn't asked about gay athletes but he went there. He was asked specifically about whether the United States would boycott the Olympics but many went on to say -- look like he was improvising on the -- with his with his words -- saying that's -- if there are no gay or lesbian athletes on the Russian teams that it makes them weaker. I think that was him trying to make -- more affirmative statement also closing the door on the idea of a boycott. That is very clearly on the president's table it's been tried in the past he doesn't want to go there again he's disappointed in this -- but he felt like he need to go a little bit further than just -- Expresses condemnation. -- Jeff I wanted to ask you about this because there was a wide range of issues that were product and this afternoon immigration reform did get one question were you surprised about the presence. I mean I think they immigration reform and health care I would put those two issues as as central the president seems very agitated upon. On the health care question clearly frustrated by what's going on clearly frustrated -- -- effort to a defined. Obama care if you will mean -- basically -- knowledge he's -- -- knowledge that there are some problems implementing health care but he at but he seemed frustrated and went on and on and on on that answer but on immigration he basically said simply let's do it. -- this is the first time that in the evangelical groups are on the same side as the chamber of commerce on the same side as organized labor. He was I think the immigration take win was much simpler and cleaner saying let's do it on health care seem -- offensive to me again. And Rick what about the nomination for the upcoming fed chair position Ben Bernanke -- is expected to step aside we will step aside and the two major candidates -- Larry Summers. And Janet Yellen being mentioned out there about one of the reporters. And the president making it up a bit of a verbal gaffe calling Janet Yellen mr. yellen and some people as we've been watching on Twitter and other social media. Saying was -- some out of a hat tip to a decision it's already been made. He knows -- Janet Yellen is clearly but because this is so charged around issues of gender with. The president being urged to make history now the first female fed chair a lot of people are noticing via the mistake in that particular honor I think he also there are other candidates -- that he's out there to defend anyone not I don't think he made a lot of news on that front I don't think. That's there there was any kind of Freudian slip involved in nine in in anchor in confusing me is with mr. But he clearly wants to defend these people there -- -- among the options on the table for him we've seen some weeks and some. Trial balloons out there in the past the president -- trying to get ahead of that. It was -- it -- -- tortured -- for the washing the dishes he said if you know if Michelle. If I tell Michelle that I wash the dishes that he had to acknowledge it doesn't really wash the dishes in the White House you know she's -- -- -- check out kind of want this meandering. Analogy about the NSA program. Making sure it's real washing dishes. It some I think we have to realist about to see how good that metaphor was. -- -- -- Yeah I know look if he does this is like I did the -- you have to redo and sometimes. I also thought his his metaphor about broken products was it was a bit tenuous when you talk about -- -- -- I can't has problems when in bugs and glitches when it first comes out. It helped us with only American health care system here and it was a subject of months actually years long debate. No one is expecting it to be absolutely perfect but to to compare -- major remaking the American health care. Program to a new technological roll out I think is a bit tortured. Particularly given the fact that's we know that they're they're having to go back and they're -- as many fixes they are already well foremost law takes effect. Rick -- -- your thought on this and then stepping -- taking a look at the bigger picture you can -- pass from almost an hour on this what was the message of the White House wanted to get out today and then compare that with the actual message that was delivered. Well I not to be too harsh about I think in both in both directions it's the president still relevant that he's still here and has a major role in this I think both foreign and domestic he's -- Hit from all sides on a lot of major fronts I think they wanted to go out there are so that they're responsive that the -- on the NSA program. But clearly this is a tough time for him he's about to go on a vacation he knows that there are a huge number of issues they'll all come to bear on him. That when congress gets back in September he's gonna have limited -- wiggle room and a lot of those negotiations and I think this is an attempt to stick to it really -- out some ground. And -- your thoughts I think -- is right I'm in the sense that mean. At trying to show that he's -- relevant but I was struck by this is a president who's not running for reelection again of course see it was just reelected but I. I was very much reminded of the constitutional law professor -- and this president up there really acknowledging fairly swiftly that the NSA program was not as transparent. As before as it needed to be so I think it's a pretty swift reaction from the White House from a bureaucracy different and administration in pretty. Pretty real time. As some democratic senators have been raising complaints about the surveillance for him for a long time. I thought he had won the White House wants I think -- a support is a president who is true to his ideals you know once transparency. And things like bats I was a pretty struck by that today. All right and so we shall leave it there ABC's -- Celanese and Rick Klein gentlemen thank you both this afternoon and we have a complete report on abcnews.com. A wide range of issues as the president made a news conference the first since April. Before heading off on vacation in Martha's Vineyard I'm down cuts -- New York with this ABC news digital special report. This has been a special group. Report from me.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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