Obama Hopes National Guard Troops Used in 'Limited' Way in Ferguson, MO

President Obama discusses comments had with Missouri governor, Jay Nixon.
38:00 | 08/18/14

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Transcript for Obama Hopes National Guard Troops Used in 'Limited' Way in Ferguson, MO
This is an ABC news. Now reported George Stephanopoulos. Good afternoon we're coming on the air right now because President Obama is about to speak from the White House briefing room. He returned to the White House late last night from his summer break on Martha's Vineyard. For meetings with his -- security team on the situation in Iraq where the US. Has stepped up its bombing campaign against the Islamic militants who have put that country under siege for the last several weeks. This -- is report some progress in -- them back. The president will also address the continued unrest here at home and Ferguson Missouri. Where violence flared again last night Missouri governor Jay Nixon has called in the National Guard -- but he also announced today. There -- that there would be no curfew in Ferguson tonight. The president discussed that situation attorney general Eric Holder today. I'm joined by John called the white guessing John this return to the White House by the president was scheduled before these two crises flare but they have really come to dominate the day. That's right George we were told the president will be coming back here before four. -- Michael Brown was shot Ferguson before the president authorized airstrikes in Iraq but they have dominated his meetings here and I expect. They'll dominate his remarks. I also expect the president will talk most extensively about Iraq because. -- so much of the country's attention has been focused on Ferguson we have seen an an expansion of the air campaign of air. But the bombing campaign over Iraq. And the president -- to make two points about that one there's been success -- that air campaign and soon there will not only mission -- -- bullish or even though we have seen. Most bombing we've seen yet last couple of days that there will be no mission -- here's the president. And here comes the president and good afternoon everybody. Earlier today I received an update for my team on two separate issues that I've been following closely. Our ongoing operation in Iraq and the situation in Ferguson -- -- With -- respect to Iraq. We continue to see important progress across different parts of our strategy to support the Iraqi Government. And combat the threat from the terrorist group -- First our military operations are effectively protecting our personnel and facilities in Iraq. Over the last eleven days American airstrikes have stopped the Beisel advance -- the city of mobile and push back the terrorists. Meanwhile we have urgently provide additional arms and assistance to Iraqi forces. Including Kurdish and Iraqi Security Forces were fighting on the front lines. Today with our support. Iraqi and Kurdish forces took a major step forward by recapturing the largest -- in Iraq near the city of Mosul. The Mosul that -- fell under terrorist control earlier this month and his directly tied to our objective protecting Americans in Iraq. If that dam was breached that could have proven catastrophic with -- that would have threatened the lives of thousands of civilians. And in danger -- our embassy compound. In Baghdad. Iraqi and Kurdish forces took the lead on the ground and performed with courage and determination. So this operation demonstrates that Iraqi and Kurdish forces are capable of working together. And taking the fight to -- If they continue to do so there will have the strong support the United States of America. Second we're building an international coalition to address the humanitarian crisis in Northern Iraq. Even as we've worked to help many thousands these CDs escape the siege -- months in -- Hundreds of thousands of rockets have been displaced -- smiles and many more are still at risk. Going forward the United States will work with the Iraqi Government as well as partners like the United Kingdom Canada France Italy and Australia. To get food and water to people in need and to bring that long term relief to people who have been driven from their homes. There. We will continue to pursue a long term strategy to turn the tide against sisal. By supporting the new Iraqi Government and working with key partners in the region and beyond. Over the last week we saw historic progress as Iraqis named in new prime minister designate. -- all -- body and Iraq's outgoing for a prime minister of Maliki agreed to step down. This peaceful transition of power will mark a major milestone. In Iraq's political development but as I think world where the work is not yet done. Over the next few weeks doctor of body needs to complete the work performing -- new. Broad based inclusive Iraqi Government -- -- develops a national program to address the interest of all Iraqis. Without that progress. Extremists like -- -- can continue to prey upon Iraq's divisions. We have that new government in place Iraqis will be able that unite the country. Against the threat from -- and there will be able to look forward to increased support not just from the United States but from. Other countries in the region and around the world. Let's remember. I suppose as a threat to all Iraqis. And to the entire region. They claim to represent -- grievances but they slaughter Sunni men women and children. They claim to oppose foreign forces but they actively recruit foreign fighters to advance their hateful ideology. -- the Iraqi People -- reject them and unite to begin to push them out of lands that they've occupied as we're seeing at -- -- And this is gonna take time they're going to be many challenges ahead. But meanwhile there should be no doubt that the united states military will continue to carry out the limit admissions but -- all of us. Protecting our personnel and facilities in Iraq both her -- in Baghdad. And providing humanitarian support as we did on months -- My administration has consulted closely with congress about our strategy in Iraq and we are gonna continue to do so. In the weeks to come because when it comes to the security of our people and our efforts against a terrorist group like ISO we need to be united in our resolve. I also want to address the situation in Ferguson -- -- Earlier this afternoon I spoke with governor Nixon as well -- were blunt and Claire McCaskill. Also met with attorney general Eric Holder. The Justice Department has opened an independent. Federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown. There on the ground and along with the FBI they're devoting substantial resources to that investigation. The attorney general himself will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to meet. We have the FBI agents and DOJ personnel conducting the federal criminal investigation. And he -- receive an update from them on their progress. You'll also be meeting with other leaders in the community whose support is so critical to bringing about peace and home in Fergus. Ronald Davis the director of the -- -- office of Community Oriented Policing Services or cops. Is also -- traveling to Ferguson tomorrow to work with police officials on the ground. We've also let experts from the DOJ is community relations service working in Ferguson since the days after the shooting. To Foster conversations among local stakeholders and reduce tensions among the community. Celebrate close just -- a few words about the tensions there. We have all seen images of protesters and law enforcement in the streets. It's clear that the vast majority of people are peacefully protest. What's also clear is that a small minority. Of individuals are not. While I understand the passions in the anger. Arise over the death of Michael Brown. Giving into that anger by -- For carrying guns. And even attacking the police. Only serves to raise tensions and stir chaos. It undermines. Rather than advancing. Justice. -- may also be clear that our constitutional rights to speak freely. To assemble and to report in the press must be gradually sicker and especially moments like these. There's no excuse for excessive force by police or any action that denies. People who write protest peaceful. -- as a nation lost. Citizens who live under them and for the citizens who enforcement. So to a community and Ferguson that is right we -- and -- looking for answers. Let me call once again -- Six some understanding rather than. Simply. Followed each other. Let's seek to -- Rather than to warm to each other. As Americans we -- use this moment to seek out -- humanity. That's been laid bare by this moment. The potential of a young man and the sorrows of parents. The frustrations of a community. The ideals that we hold as one united American family. I've said this before. And too many communities around the country -- gulf. Of mistrust exists between local residents. And law enforcement. In too many communities. Too many young men of color -- left behind and seen only as objects of fear. Through initiatives like my brother's keeper I'm personally committed to changing both perception. And reality and already were making. Some significant progress as people of goodwill of all races -- rated -- that but that requires that we build. And not tear down that requires we listen. Not dish out. That's -- -- gonna move forward. Together. -- trying to unite each other and understand each other and not. Simply. Divide ourselves from one another. We're gonna have to hold -- to those values. In the days ahead. That's how we bring about justice. And that's how we bring about peace so -- I've got. If you question them and take them a -- Jim -- they picked. Here today for business and -- possession of city police and I'm wondering whether you wonder. -- See that -- Police response. In for us. And also -- you agree with -- Well. I think weathered the great things about the United States has been. Our ability to maintain a distinction between our military and domestic law enforcement. That helps preserve our civil liberties. That helps ensure that the military is accountable to. Civilian direction. And that has to be preserved. After 9/11. I think understandably a lot of folks saw local communities that were ill equipped for their potential. Catastrophic terrorist attack. And having people in congress. People of -- decided we've got to make sure that they get proper equipment to deal with. Threats that. Historically. When the rise. In. Local communities. And some of that's -- years I -- some law enforcement. Didn't have. Radios that they could. Operate effectively and in the midst of a disaster. Some communities needed to be prepared if in fact there was a chemical attack and they didn't have. Hazmat suits. Having said that I think it's probably useful for us to review. How the funding his. Gone. How local law enforcement has. Used grant dollars to make sure that. What their what their purchasing. This stuff that they actually me. Because. You know there is a big difference between our military and our local law enforcement and we don't want those lines -- that would be contrary to our traditions. And I think that there will be some bipartisan interest in reexamining. Some of those programs. -- respect to the National Guard I think it's important just remember this was a state activated. National Guard so it's under the charge of the governor this is not something that we initiated. At the federal level. I spoke to Jay Nixon about this expressed. An interest in making sure that. If in fact -- National Guard is used it is used in a limited an appropriate way. He described the support role that they are going to be providing two local law enforcement. And I'll be watching over the next several days. To assess whether in fact it's helping rather than Henry. -- -- -- -- Steve all -- Who. Is. And help. Take. Well. I have been. Firm from the start that. We are not re introducing. Thousands of US troops back on the ground to engage in combat we're not the Iraqi military were not. Even the Iraqi air force. News. I'm -- chief. The United States armed forces. And Iraq is gonna have to ultimately provide for its own security on the other hand we've got a national security interest. And making sure people are protected camps in making sure that. A savage group. That. Seems. Willing to slaughter. People for no rhyme or reason other than. They have not. Kowtow to them. That a group like that is contained because ultimately could pose a threat to us. So my goal is number one to make sure we've got to. Viable part. And that's why. We have sold. Consistently emphasized the need for. A government formation process that is inclusive that is credible that is legitimate. And that can appeal to Sony is as well shears and Kurtz. We've made significant progress on that front but we're not there yet and I told my national security team today. And I will say public. That we want to continue to communicate to. Politicians of all stripes in Iraq. Don't think that because we have engaged in. Air strikes to protect our people. That now's the time to. What the foot off the gas and returned to the same kind of dysfunction. That has so weak and the country generally. Doctor body has said the right things I was impressed in my conversation with him about his vision for an inclusive government but they've got to get this done. Because. -- at the door. And in order for them to. Be credible with the Iraqi People. They're gonna have to put behind some of the old practices. And actually create. A credible united government. Win we see a credible Iraqi Government. We are then in a position to engage with planning not just with the Iraqi Government but also with regional actors and folks beyond the Middle East. So that we can craft the kind of joint strategy. Joint counterterrorism strategy. That I discussed. At West Point and I discussed. Several years ago to in the national defense college. Our goal is to have -- -- partners on the ground. And if we have effective partners on the ground. Mission creep is much less likely. Typically what happens it would mission -- is when we start. Deciding that. Were the ones who have to do it all ourselves. And you know that because of excellence -- military that can work for a time we've learned that -- Iraq. But it's not sustainable. It's not last. And so. You know I've I've been very firm about this precisely because. Our role here has to be to be able to build up. -- structure not just. In Iraq but regionally. That. Can be maintained. And that is not involving us effectively. Trying to govern. Or impose our military will. On a country that is hostile to us. I don't picks -- this point I'm prepared to provide. -- blanket answer that a lot of it depends on. How effectively the Iraqi Government comes together. I think that you'll see. If in fact -- that government formation process moves. Rapidly. And credibly that there will be a lot of actors in the region around the world that are prepared to help. And to step up assistance who many of whom may have been reticent over the last several years because. The perception was at least that. Baghdad was not. Being inclusive and that it was going to be self defeating to put more resources into I think you'll see. A lot of folks step up suddenly now Iraq War have. A variety of partners. And would. More folks unified around the effort. I think it's something that can be can be accomplished it it also means that there's the prospect of Sunni tribes. Who are the primary residence of various that I shall now controls. Saying we've got a viable option. And we would rather work we have. A central government that appears to understand our grievances and is prepared to meet them rather than two. Deal -- There -- individuals who we don't -- Have any values beyond death. And destruction. I'm -- I'm -- -- the last question from. Somebody who after 41 years. I understand. Has decided to retire. Ann Compton. Everybody here knows is not only the consummate professional but. Is also just a pleasure to get to know. I was proud to be able to. -- her grand baby recently and I suspect that may have something to do with her decision. But. I just want to say. Publicly and we're gonna miss you and we're very very proud of the extraordinary career and work that you've done. We hope you're not a stranger -- -- I suspect you may get some -- -- some. Yes he's this isn't an interesting time in your presidency. And one of the things that you have so emphasized in the last few months and yourself. Is this reach out Brothers. Brother's keeper to a generation doesn't feel it hasn't. Sending attorney -- do Ferguson business has anyone there -- have you considered going to tell me. If you personally do not just Ferguson but for communities that might also feel that kind of attention and see if you you know waited. And obviously. We've seen. Events in which there's a big. Gulf between. Community perceptions and law enforcement such perceptions. Around the country this is not something new. It's always tragic when it involves the death of someone so we don't. I have to be very careful about not pre judging. These events before investigations. Are completed. Because although. These are. -- issues of local jurisdiction. You know that the DOJ works for me and it when they're conducting investigation I've got to make sure that I don't look like -- Put my thumb on the -- one where the others. So it's hard for me. Two. Address a specific case. Beyond making sure that. -- it's conducted in a way that isn't transparent. Where there's accountability. Where people can trust the process. Hoping that as a consequence a fair. And just process. You end up where -- fair and just outcome. But as I think -- -- -- in some past occasions. Part of ongoing. Challenge of perfecting our union has involved. Dealing with the communities that feel left behind. Who as a consequence. Tragic histories. Often find -- -- cells isolated often find themselves. Without hope without. Economic prospects. You had. Young men of color in many communities who are more likely to end up in jail or in the criminal justice system. Then they are. A good job -- in college. And -- part of my job. That I can do I think without any potential conflicts. Is to get at those root causes. Now. That's a big project. It's one that we've been. Trying to carry out now for. A couple of centuries. And we've made extraordinary progress but we have not made enough progress and so the idea behind something like my brother's keeper is can we work -- -- Cities. And communities. And clergy. And parents. And young people themselves. All across the country. School superintendents. Businesses corporations and can we find models that work. That move. These young men on. On -- better track. Now part of that process is also looking at our criminal justice system to make sure that. Did. Is. Upholding the basic principle of -- is equal before the law. And and one of the things -- we've looked at during the course. Where we can make they're during the course of investigating where we can make a difference. Is that there are patterns -- start -- Young African American Hispanic boy is gonna get suspended. From school. At much higher rates than other kids even when they're in elementary school. They tend to have. Much more frequent interactions with the criminal justice system at an earlier -- Sentencing. May be different. -- -- -- all trials are conducted may be different. And so. -- one of the things that we've done is to include. Department of Justice in this conversation. Under the banner my brother's keeper to see where can -- Start. Working with -- local communities. To. Inculcate more trust more confidence. In the criminal justice system. And I -- -- -- I want to be clear about this because sometimes I think there's confusion around these issues and and this dates back for for decades. There are. Young black -- the commit crime. And -- and we can we can argue about. Why that happened because. Of the poverty there were born into and lack of opportunity -- school systems that failed them or have you but. If they commit -- crime. Then they need be. Prosecutors. Because. Every community has an interest of public safety -- -- fuel and -- -- after American commuter Latino community. Some folks who. Our most intent on making sure that. Criminals are dealt where there are people who've been preyed upon by. So -- this is not an argument that there isn't real crime out there and that law enforcement doesn't have a difficult job and you know that they. You know they have to be honored and respected for. The danger and difficulty. Of a law enforcement. But what is also true is that given. The history of this country. Where we can make progress in building up more confidence more trust making sure that our criminal justice system. Is. Acutely aware of the possibilities. Disparities in treatment. There are safeguards in place to avoid those disparities. Where. You know training and assistance is provided to. Local law enforcement. Who made -- need more information. In order to avoid. Potential disparity all those things can make a difference what one of the things I was most proud of when I was in the state legislature that way back when I have no greater and none of you -- pronouncement name. Was. You know I passed legislation requiring. Videotaping of interrogations and confessions and -- passed legislation. Dealing with -- racial profiling in -- And in both cases we worked with -- local law enforcement and the argument was that you can do a better job. As. A law enforcement official. If you have built up credibility and trust and there are some basic things that can be done. To promote. That kind of trust. And -- in in some cases there's just a lack of information and and we want to make sure that we get that information. To law enforcement. So there are things that can be done to improve the situation. But short term obviously right now what we have to do is to. Make sure that the cause of justice and fair administration of the law. Is. Being brought to bear and Ferguson. In order to do that. We've got to make sure that we are able to distinguish between. Peaceful protesters who. May have some legitimate grievances. And may be longstanding grievances. And of those who. Are using. This tragic death as an excuse to engage in criminal behavior and tossing Molotov cocktails or looting stores. And and that is a a small minority of folks and it may not even be residents of Ferguson. But they -- damaging because they're not advancing our thank you very much Herbert. President Obama wrapping up his press conference with some praise for our colleague and friend and Compton who's wrapping up her career. At the White House after 41 years covering the White House for ABC news we congratulate her. As well the president of course also addressing the situation Ferguson Missouri describing the federal efforts that have been taken we've also just learned. That a grand jury will begin hearing evidence in that case the death of Michael Brown as early as tomorrow and of course officials -- braced for possible night of violence. Tonight most of the president's comments addressing the situation in Iraq. The present describing some progress. In the US bombing campaign against Islamic militants -- Also saying they have along with the Kurdish forces recaptured key dam in the north of that country -- -- that ABC's Martha -- -- chief global affairs. -- -- Martha the president. Also -- -- this campaign against -- could take some time but being very clear about the kind of limits he would put on American involvement. Well he's talked about this being a limited mission and in the past has talked about protecting American. Personnel. And facilities. But today he said essentially that the mission is also to make sure -- savage group like crisis is contained. Because ultimately they can pose a threat to the US. That is pretty broad authority. George and that could be without time limit it's almost like the war on terror. I thought he really open that up today -- that means I think he could really strike anywhere in Iraq. Without time limit but again the president reiterating no boots on the ground no American boots on the ground. Exactly but we've had -- 68 air strikes in the last ten days. In support of the Iraqis 35 in support of the Iraqis around. The Mosul -- the others issue now. To support humanitarian operations and to make sure revealed that not far from Kmart rose thanks very much that's -- for us right now we continue live streaming this special -- online. -- -- back with a full report later on world news you need the latest news any time by stirring these stories on the ABC news mobile app. Along with personalize alerts throughout the day. I'm -- -- seven -- in New York have a good. This has been a special -- From ABC. Continue with our special report coverage of the president's remarks here in the White House briefing room. We heard extensive comments from the president on the US air campaign in Iraq. Talking about how he believes -- -- success -- -- specific case. And that is Iraqi and Kurdish forces re taking a very critical a piece of infrastructure of the Mosul dam. From the terrorist group crisis -- -- -- the White House causes calls it. We also heard the president's comments on the situation in Ferguson Missouri. -- saying that the attorney general Eric Holder will be traveling to Ferguson on Wednesday to be meeting with local officials and of course working on the Justice Department. By independent -- investigation of that case joining me now is Martha Raddatz Martha. You've spent time most recently Ferguson -- of course a lot of time in Iraq let me start with the president's comments on Iraq. What he did seem to want to make clear that this was a limited mission but it sounded like a less limited mission we are talking about. Just a week or so ago. -- I think essentially you know this John in his original. Briefing to the nation he talked about protecting. American personnel. And facilities he did not really mention infrastructure something like -- also banned but later on the way to Martha's Vineyard. King he mentioned that infrastructure and now today he said that essentially the mission is also to make sure. Crisis. He said a savage group like crisis is contained because ultimately they could pose a threat to the US which really does make this sound like a broader mission. And broader authority to go after crisis anywhere they are certainly in -- -- And even as he said limited mission -- -- and that's been the watchword here at the White House this is a limited mission. It's clear that it's not missing mission which limits in terms of time for him. It it certainly doesn't sound like -- I think when he talks about a limited mission and and we both heard him say over and over and over again no combat boots on the ground he has made that very clear although there. Many military advisors. On the ground certainly in Baghdad and dinner -- helping the Iraqi forces. With his campaign to. Oust crisis. But as for airstrikes. 68 air strikes in ten days 35 around the Mosul -- that's a lot of air strikes but he is in this in this case. Fighting a more Iraqis are fighting a more traditional army with crisis. Crisis has taken a lot of military equipment from the Iraqi forces which of course got a lot of military equipment from the US. So it is a more traditional army. Sometimes the targets are quite small sometimes there armored personnel carrier sometimes there artillery. Units but they have really been going after them. And and what's it seems a lot of those that I should point out these are small targets those -- equipment that's being hit in many cases if not all of them. Is US -- -- equipment that was. Given to the Iraqis and over -- taken by Beisel I want to turn to what the president said on Ferguson and Martha you -- just in Ferguson yesterday. Now we hear from the president. -- he is going to be sending attorney general Eric Holder. 22 Ferguson as part of this investigation what was your sense on the grounds it is that what people are looking for. In the town of Ferguson I was -- any expectation that there would actually be a presidential visit. I don't think -- there was the act an expectation of a presidential visit I think it everywhere I went in and I traced the route. -- from where Michael Brown was killed back to the area where their protests and looting. A lot of people and -- echoing the president there -- a lot of people that I spoke to -- Ferguson said they thought some of those people. Who were looting were coming in from outside and said themselves that is certainly not helpful it also happens late at night usually. One of the Alderman told me when a lot of the younger people are out. I got a real sense that a lot of that communities really trying to come together and and do not want these looters there. About what they -- his answers they really want answers they want to know what happened that night I think the autopsy results today gave them some answers but they want more. And of course. There will be possibly the grand jury meeting on Wednesday to start taking evidence. All right Martha Raddatz thank you very much mark and I have a special guest right now. If I can caller oh right here on -- the corner in my night and Compton longtime ABC White House correspondent so of course. And as usually happens you when you got a question for the president. It's actually generated the most -- -- -- -- that he made. First of -- congratulations. Christina leaving ABC -- won't let you know. 41. Years ago. Joining ABC I'm not knowing very much and forty years ago walking into this briefing room so long ago John. That this whole area was sofas. And card tables it was a waiting room while reporters -- waiting for news and how it is changed. And so I think it you know at that point maybe it's good time to step back well. You've certainly got more stories anybody that I know around here but I wanna talk about the news today -- you asked -- the president would be. Going to Ferguson if you give some thought to that it's include -- has answered that that's not and his aunt says it. Not gonna happen and what if you really want to send a symbol. Sending your attorney general and African American attorney -- -- it but it's a week and a half after the the event. And sometimes presidents can do things that other people cannot. And we could figure out that he didn't think he was good for him to go but he said he didn't want to put his finger. On the scales of justice he's got his Justice Department investigating this. They want to keep it an independent investigation -- he has to stay out of it but his attorney general can go in. It also he's the first African American president and the very first question I asked of him John when he was brand new sixty days in -- administration. In the White House Easter be called on me and I asked him whether he. The race had made a difference in the kind of decisions he was making a for the any the American people thought that his -- decisions were influenced by race and he said he thought not especially economically he wanted to raise all. All boats everybody was in economic trouble back -- so. May that's good win on that -- this. That's that's pretty good before you go and I do want vascular they practice for a minute. That was suspect could argue -- be your last question of of a president here as White House correspondent what was the first question that you asked the US president. Oh gosh all sorts of little as well don't know all sort of building Specter today -- went presidents weren't quite as distant from Mars. The first president -- covered was Gerald Ford recently an almost daily. I could asking questions to a three times a week. He would teach me about things I ski with him at -- -- questions on the slope so it really is a different time and a different. And I don't remember the first question right -- grades and Compton truly been an honor to to be your colleague here in the women's slippers -- -- Well you get to hang in there. All right and that's it for our ABC news digital special reports on Jonathan Karl within Compton at the White House.

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

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