Allegations of Syria Using Chemical Weapons "Is Clearly a Big Event of Grave Concern"
Egypt and the U.S. "Can't Return to Business as Usual"
There is an Abbreviated Time Frame to Make a Decision on Syria and Egypt
NSA surveillance programs "Can Only Work if the American People Trust What's Going on"
Disclosures made by Snowden Made it Clear That People are Concerned with Privacy
Antoinette Tuff "was remarkable"
In a wide-ranging CNN exclusive interview, President Barack Obama discussed college costs; student loans; the administration's response to the crisis in Syria and if a red line has been crossed; Egyptian foreign policy and whether or not a military coup happened; NSA surveillance vs. privacy protection; and inaction in Congress. CNN Anchor Chris Cuomo sat down with the President in Syracuse after he finished his bus tour in upstate New York. Later during a walk and talk, the President gave his thoughts on Antoinette Tuff, Sasha and Malia growing up and the family's new dog, Sunny. The full interview aired today on CNN's morning show "New Day," which runs weekdays from 6-9am ET.
President Obama addressed allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime used chemical weapons on civilians, saying "what we've seen indicates that this is clearly a big event of grave concern." His immediate solution includes communicating with the international community and the United Nations and calling on Syrian government officials to allow an investigation. He said, "There is no doubt that when you start seeing chemical weapons used on a large scale - and, again, we're still gathering information about this particular event, but it is very troublesome." The President told Cuomo that the financial and human cost of the war in Afghanistan is still accumulating and we don't have to "get involved with everything immediately" and "drawn into very expensive, difficult, costly interventions that actually breed more resentment in the region."
When Cuomo asked if Syria has crossed a red line, President Obama responded, "If the U.S. goes in and attacks another country without a U.N. mandate and without clear evidence that can be presented, then there are questions in terms of whether international law supports it, do we have the coalition to make it work, and, you know, those are considerations that we have to take into account."
In response to the political and deadly chaos in Egypt, President Obama stated that "there's no doubt that we can't return to business as usual" and that "the aid itself may not reverse what the interim government does." Regarding the overthrow of former President Mohamed Morsy and the Unites States' position during that time, he claimed, "There was a space right after Mr. Morsy was removed in which we did a lot of heavy lifting and a lot of diplomatic work to try to encourage the military to move in a path of reconciliation. They did not take that opportunity." The President replied "yes" twice when Cuomo asked him if there was an abbreviated time frame to make a decision on Syria and Egypt.
President Obama defended the NSA's surveillance programs, acknowledging that mistakes were made and will be corrected with better safeguards to keep up with rapidly developing technology. He said he is "very confident" that people are not trying to abuse the program and read personal emails and listen to calls and believes that these programs are needed to protect the nation from terrorist attacks. He acknowledged "disclosures that were made by Mr. Snowden" made it clear that people are concerned about their privacy, and as a result, the government needs "to do a better job of giving people confidence in how these programs work."
On domestic issues, President Obama spoke about the road to lowering college costs that have skyrocketed over the last several decades. Putting pressure on state legislatures, holding universities accountable and dealing with student debt head on are some of the initiatives he is going to undertake. He denied that Congress' negotiated fix on student loans leaves students in a more difficult position than they were before the legislation passed. President Obama said, "What happened was that the student interest rate had doubled. And what we were able to do was to negotiate it so it was back down to a low level. Now, what's true is, as interest rates go up because it's now tied to market interest rates, that could push the interest rate higher."
The President also gave his thoughts on the effectiveness of Congress, stating that he doesn't think the branch has "a whole lot of core responsibilities." "One core responsibility is passing a budget, which they have not done yet," President Obama said. "The other core responsibility that they've got is to pay the bills that they've already accrued. And if Congress simply does those two things when they get back, then the economy can continue to recover...."
After the sit down interview, Cuomo walked with the President and caught up about a few other topics. The President said that Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper who talked a gunmen into surrending at a school, was "remarkable" and that she maintained her calm energy when he called her. He also gave credit to First Lady Michelle Obama for his daughters' respectful demeanor. Acknowledging that the more time he wants to spend with his kids over the years, the less "excited" they get. In addition to Sunny being a play companion to their other dog Bo, President Obama admits that the two dogs will keep them company when the kids leave the nest.
Check out CNN.com to read more about Chris Cuomo's interview with President Obama.
Cuomo is the anchor of "New Day," CNN's morning show with Anchor Kate Bolduan and News Anchor Michaela Pereira. Joining CNN in 2013, he has helped lead coverage on all major news stories, including the Boston marathon attacks, George Zimmerman trial, papal conclave and State of the Union address. The award-winning anchor and correspondent came from ABC News where he anchored "20/20" and "Good Morning America."
CNN Worldwide is a portfolio of two dozen news and information services across cable, satellite, radio, wireless devices and the Internet in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. Domestically, CNN reaches more individuals on television, the web and mobile devices than any other cable TV news organizations in the United States; internationally, CNN is the most widely distributed news channel reaching more than 271 million households abroad; and CNN Digital is a top network for online news, mobile news and social media. Additionally, CNN Newsource is the world's most extensively utilized news service partnering with hundreds of local and international news organizations around the world. CNN is a division of Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., a Time Warner Company.
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