January 12th, 2016
07:58 PM ET

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest says "U.S sailors are safe"

the lead

 

 

Today on The Lead with Jake Tapper, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest joined the program, on the day of President Obama’s final State of the Union address to weigh in on the breaking news of ten American sailors being held in Iranian custody.  Please see below for a full rushed transcript.

 

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Text Highlights 

Earnest discusses the 10 American sailors in Iranian custody: " I can tell you that U.S. officials have been in touch with the Iranians about this situation.  This is obviously a situation that we're monitoring closely.  We've received assurances from the Iranians, both that our sailors are safe, that they're being – that they’re afforded sort of the care – sort of the proper - courtesy that you'd expect.  We've also most importantly received assurances they will be allowed to continue their journey promptly . So this is - the substance of the communications that we have with the Iranians so far today, and it's a situation we're going to continue to watch closely….. we're still learning more about the precise circumstances of this particular incident, so I don't want to say anything based on the first unconfirmed information we have at this point.  The thing I can tell you we are watching this closely, and we have received assurances from the Iranians that our sailors are safe and that they will be allowed to continue their journey promptly.

[TAPPER]: "I hear you, but they have 10 American sailors in their custody right now, Josh.  I mean, I think there are probably a lot of Americans watching this thinking, why are we about to give them sanction relief?  They have 10 Americans in – wherever they have them. In a boat, in a cell, whatever."[EARNEST]: "We're going to have sanctions in place against Iran because of their continued development of their ballistic missile program.  And we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that Iran is going to be subject to additional sanctions because of the tests they conducted at the end of last year.  So we continue to be concerned about this situation.  That precisely is why the president made preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon a top national security priority, and we're making progress in actually accomplishing that goal."

 

Earnest on President Obama’s final State of the Union address: "Well, the president surely has plenty to talk about when it comes to all that we've accomplished over the last seven years. And he’s surely got a lot he wants to talk about in terms what we hope to get done in over the remaining year that the president has in office.  But what the president's hoping to do is use this opportunity to have a conversation with the American people about longer-term challenges that are facing the country, but also the longer-term opportunities that are available if we actually make the right choices at this point in time. The president's going to talk first and foremost about the economy.  We've seen our economy change dramatically over the last couple of decades because of technology.  In some ways, that technology has allowed our economy to expand prosperity in ways that were previously unimaginable.  But what's also true we're seeing technology is having an impact of eliminating jobs, not just on the factory floor, but in a variety of sectors…"

 

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT:

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

 

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.  Breaking news into CNN. Just minutes ago, U.S. officials say Iran has 10 American sailors in custody.  Apparently two small American vessels, boats, were on en route from Kuwait to Bahrain when the U.S. lost contact with these boats.

 

Joining me now, White House press secretary Josh Earnest.  Josh, what can you tell us about these 10 American sailors in Iranian custody?

 

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, Jake, I can tell you that U.S. officials have been in touch with the Iranians about this situation.  This is obviously a situation that we're monitoring closely.  We've received assurances from the Iranians, both that our sailors are safe, that they're being – that they’re afforded sort of the care – sort of the proper - courtesy that you'd expect.  We've also most importantly received assurances they will be allowed to continue their journey promptly.

 

So this is - the substance of the communications that we have with the Iranians so far today, and it's a situation we're going to continue to watch closely.

 

TAPPER: Josh, I know there's only so much you can say about this developing story.  But did the Iranians accuse the American sailors of being in their waters?  Did they give any sort of reason for taking ten American sailors into captivity?

 

EARNEST: Well, Jake, the circumstances, we're still learning more about the precise circumstances of this particular incident, so I don't want to say anything based on the first unconfirmed information we have at this point.  The thing I can tell you we are watching this closely, and we have received assurances from the Iranians that our sailors are safe and that they will be allowed to continue their journey promptly.

 

TAPPER: Corey Gardner, senator from Colorado and Republican member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that the White House needs to brief Congress before going through with the State of the Union address, that this is a very alarming situation.  Are there any plans to brief Congress, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, anyone up here?

 

EARNEST: Well, I'm confident that there will be officials on the president's national security team will be in touch with members of Congress to make sure they’re aware of the conversations that we've had with the Iranians.  Certainly everybody should be aware of the fact we have been in touch with the Iranians, and that they have assured us our sailors are safe, and they'll be allowed to continue their journey promptly.

 

TAPPER: Josh, I know we booked you to talk about the State of the Union, and I will get to that because I know that you want to talk about that.  But just one more question. What do you say to people who say, Iran fired upon - not on, didn't hit - but fired a warning shot of sorts, towards an American ship in the last couple of weeks.  They test-fired, I believe, a ballistic missile in the last few weeks.

 

And yet in a few days, they're scheduled to have the relief of all of those sanctions. The basic question being, this does not seem look a country that is ready to be welcome back into the community of nations.

 

EARNEST: That's right, Jake.  And certainly the United States has been concerned with the kind of provocative, destabilizing actions that have been a hallmark of Iranian behavior over the last several decades, in fact.  And that's why, - a, that is why the United States and this president made it a priority to organize the international community to reach an agreement with Iran that will prevent them from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

 

This agreement is actually the best way to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon.  And based on them following through with their commitment to ship 98 percent of their uranium stockpile out of the country, which they followed through on – over the holidays, Iran right now actually doesn't even have the nuclear material necessary to build one nuclear weapon. And we all did all that without a single American shot being fired.  So that's indication we're making some progress in countering the threat that is posed by Iran .

 

TAPPER: I hear you, but they have 10 American sailors in their custody right now, Josh.  I mean, I think there are probably a lot of Americans watching this thinking, why are we about to give them sanction relief?  They have 10 Americans in – wherever they have them. In a boat, in a cell, whatever.

 

EARNEST: Well, because these were sanctions that were imposed on Iran over their nuclear program.  And as soon as Iran takes the steps they've committed to take, and those steps can be verified by international nuclear experts, then we'll know that Iran will not develop a nuclear weapon.

 

That said, Jake, we're going to continue to have sanctions in place against Iran because of their support for terrorism. We're going to have sanctions in place against Iran because of their continued development of their ballistic missile program.  And we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that Iran is going to be subject to additional sanctions because of the tests they conducted at the end of last year.

 

So we continue to be concerned about this situation.  That precisely is why the president made preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon a top national security priority, and we're making progress in actually accomplishing that goal.

 

TAPPER: Josh, I know you came here to preview the president's State of the Union.  We're told that it’s going to be a nontraditional speech.  What can viewers expect to hear tonight?

 

EARNEST: Well, the president surely has plenty to talk about when it comes to all that we've accomplished over the last seven years. And he’s surely got a lot he wants to talk about in terms what we hope to get done in over the remaining year that the president has in office.

 

But what the president's hoping to do is use this opportunity to have a conversation with the American people about longer-term challenges that are facing the country, but also the longer-term opportunities that are available if we actually make the right choices at this point in time.

 

The president's going to talk first and foremost about the economy.  We've seen our economy change dramatically over the last couple of decades because of technology.  In some ways, that technology has allowed our economy to expand prosperity in ways that were previously unimaginable.  But what's also true we're seeing technology is having an impact of eliminating jobs, not just on the factory floor, but in a variety of sectors.

 

And so what kind of policies can we put in place as a federal government to actually support our work force as our economy goes through these changes, but also ensures that our workforce is positioned to benefit from those changes that we know are taking place, and are only going to accelerate?

 

TAPPER: All right. Josh Earnest, thank you so much. Appreciate it, sir.

 

EARNEST: No problem.

 

END

 


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