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Earnest: ‘Spend Just As Much Time Focusing on the Presidents Actions, As You Do His Words’

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, “I would encourage you to do is to spend just as much time focusing on the president’s actions, as you do his words” on Wednesday’s “Fox & Friends” on the Fox News Channel.

Earnest was asked about the airstrikes carried out by Russia and France against terror targets, and why the US hasn’t hit them. He responded, “the fact of the matter is that, more than a year ago, the president ordered military action against targets inside of Syria. And over that time, there are literally thousands of airstrikes that have conducted by the United States military in Iraq and in Syria. Now, the fact of the matter is, when it comes to these French operations, the only reason the French were able to take out these targets overnight is because they were relying on intelligence information that was provided by the United States. They were relying on logistical support that was provided by the United States.”

When asked why it took an attack in France to hit these spots, “if we’re serous about taking out ISIS?” Earnest responded, “Well, what’s clear is that as you develop targets over time, more targets present themselves, and we certainly welcome the steppe- up contribution from the French. But that certainly does not take away from thousands airstrikes that have been taken by the United States military, almost daily, over the course of the last year. There have even been more strikes that have been taken in Iraq. … When it comes to the Russians, the situation is different. Vladimir Putin, over the last couple of months has only recently begun to order military operations inside of Syria by the Russians, but most of those operations have been focused on propping up Bashar al-Assad, and attacking his enemies. We certainly would welcome the change in strategy on the part of the Russians to begin to focus their efforts on ISIL. We’re not yet to a situation where we are cooperating with them militarily, but there were steps that were taken to ensure that their efforts were deconflicted with ours.”

Earnest was then questioned by Hasselbeck on President Obama referring to the attack in Paris as a “setback,” Secretary of State John Kerry saying that the Charlie Hebdo attacks were “understandable.”

He said, “what I would ask the American people to do is to go look at the transcript of the president’s remarks where he described the situation as ‘sickening,’ where he expresses profound sorrow over what exactly had occurred. And I think what I would encourage you to do is to spend just as much time focusing on the president’s actions, as you do his words.”

Hasselbeck objected, “His words matter, Josh.” After the two sparred over control of the floor, during which Earnest stated, “if you want to have me on your show, to talk about a serious issue, then give me an opportunity to answer the question” and Hasselbeck said the president calling the attacks a “setback” “seems cavalier.” Earnest continued, “Elisabeth, if you would consider the president’s remarks, you will note that he said — he called the attacks ‘sickening’ and that he expressed his profound sorrow of what had precisely had occurred. But I would also encourage you to spend some time to focused on the president’s actions, where just hours after this terrible terrorist attack took place, the president was on the phone with the president of France, to offer any support that they needed in conducting the investigation, and carrying out any response that they would choose to carry out. Hours later, the president convened a meeting of his national security team, where the president invited the attorney general, the director of the FBI, the director of homeland security, secretary of defense, and other leaders, to discuss exactly what the US’ response should be. The first question that the president asked in that meeting was, to make sure, to verify that all of the necessary steps were being taken inside the United States, to ensure the safety and security of the American people, and the US homeland. After that, there was an extended conversation about the intelligence, and about what sort of military steps we could take to ramp up our efforts inside of Syria, and to make sure we could support our French allies if they chose to ramp up their efforts inside of Syria. And that’s exactly what they’ve done, and we’ve supported them as they’ve done that.”

Earnest was then asked about plans to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees, he said that “refugees who are admitted to the United States undergo more rigorous screening than anybody else who tries to enter the country. So, typically it takes between 18 and 24 months, for people to be cleared as refugees seeking asylum into the United States. This means they’re subjected to background interviews, biometric information is collected from them. Their information is then run through national security databases, the database that is maintained by the National Center on Counterterrorism, databases that are run by international law enforcement and counterterrorism organizations. Only then are those individuals allowed into the United States. The fact is, we’re talking about widows, and orphans. … And it is in our interest, as a country, to continue to uphold our tradition of giving them a home inside the United States.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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