The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
April 27, 2011
8:48 A.M. EDT
MR. CARNEY: Good morning, everybody. You can read the paperwork we just handed out in a
minute. Let me just get started. Thank you for coming
this morning. I have with me today Dan Pfeiffer, the
Presidentís Director of Communications, as well as Bob
Bauer, the Presidentís White House Counsel, who will
have a few things to say about the documents we handed
to you today. And then we'll take your questions. I
remind you this is off camera and only pen and pad, not
for audio. And I give you Dan Pfeiffer.
MR. PFEIFFER: Thanks, Jay. What you
have in front of you now is a packet of papers that
includes the Presidentís long-form birth certificate
from the state of Hawaii, the original birth certificate
that the President requested and we posted online in
2008, and then the correspondence between the
Presidentís counsel and the Hawaii State Department of
Health that led to the release of those documents.
If you would just give me a minute to
-- indulge me a second to walk through a little of the
history here, since all of you weren't around in 2008
when we originally released the Presidentís birth
certificate, I will do that. And then Bob Bauer will
walk through the timeline of how we acquired these
In 2008, in response to media
inquiries, the Presidentís campaign requested his birth
certificate from the state of Hawaii. We received that
document; we posted it on the website. That document was
then inspected by independent fact checkers
, who came to
the campaign headquarters and inspected the document --
independent fact checkers did, and declared that it was
proof positive that the President was born in Hawaii.
To be clear, the document we presented
on the Presidentís website in 2008 is his birth
certificate. It is the piece of paper that every
Hawaiian receives when they contact the state to request
a birth certificate. It is the birth certificate they
take to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get their
driverís license and that they take to the federal
government to get their passport. It is the legally
That essentially -- for those of you
who followed the campaign closely know that solved the
issue. We didnít spend any time talking about this after
that. There may have been some very fringe discussion
out there, but as a campaign issue it was settled and it
Q: When you posted this did you post
the other side of it where the signature is?
MR. PFEIFFER: Yes.
Q: Because it is not here and that's
been an issue.
MR. PFEIFFER: We posted both sides and
when it was looked at it was looked at by -- the fact
checkers came to headquarters and actually examined the
document we had.
That settled the issue. In recent
weeks, the issue has risen again as some folks have
begun raising a question about the original -- about the
long-form birth certificate you now have in front of
you. And Bob will explain why --
the extraordinary steps we had to take to receive that
and the legal restraints that are in place there.
But it became an issue again. And it
went to -- essentially the discussion transcended from
the nether regions of the Internet into mainstream
political debate in this country. It became something
that when both Republicans and Democrats were talking to
the media they were asked about. It was a constant
discussion on mainstream news organizations. And the
President believed that it was becoming a distraction
from the major issues we're having in this country.
And he was particularly struck by the
fact that right after the Republicans released their
budget framework and the President released his, we were
prepared to have a very important, very vigorous debate
in this country about the future of the country, the
direction weíre going to take, how weíre doing to deal
with very important issues like education, Medicare, how
weíre going to deal with taxes in this country. And that
should -- thatís the debate we should be having yet.
What was really dominating a lot of
discussion was this fake controversy, essentially, a
sideshow, that was distracting from this real issue. And
an example of that would be when major Democrats and
Republicans went onto mainstream news organizations to
talk about their budget plans -- including the President
-- they were asked about this. They were asked about
what they thought about the controversy. They were asked
if they believed the President was born in the United
States. And it was really a distraction.
That really struck the President, led
him to ask his counsel to look into whether we could ask
the state of Hawaii to release the long-form
certificate, which is not something they generally do. And he did that despite the fact that it probably was
not in his long-term -- it would have been in his --
probably in his long-term political interests to allow
this Birther debate to dominate discussion in the
Republican Party for months to come. But he thought even
though it might have been good politics, he thought it
was bad for the country. And so he asked counsel to look
And now Iíll have Bob explain that,
and then weíll take your questions.
MR. CARNEY: I just want to -- sorry, I
meant to mention at the top, as some of you may have
seen, the President will be coming to the briefing room
at 9:45 a.m., making a brief statement about this -- not
taking questions, but just wanted to let you know.
MR. PFEIFFER: And he will use this as
an opportunity to make a larger point about what this
debate says about our politics. Go ahead, Bob.
MR. BAUER: Early
last week the decision was made to review the legal
basis for seeking a waiver from the longstanding
prohibition in the state Department of Health on
releasing the long-form birth certificate. And so we
undertook a legal analysis and determined a waiver
request could be made that we had the grounds upon which
to make that request.
And by Thursday of last week, I spoke
to private counsel to the President and asked her to
contact the State Department of Health and to have a
conversation about any requirements, further
requirements, that they thought we had to satisfy to
lodge that waiver request. She had that conversation
with the state Department of Health on Thursday --
counsel in question is Judy Corley at the law firm of
Perkins Coie, and you have a copy of the letter she
subsequently sent to the department with the Presidentís
The department outlined the
requirements for the President to make this request. He
signed a letter making that request on Friday afternoon
upon returning from the West Coast. And private counsel
forwarded his written request -- written, signed request
-- along with a letter from counsel, to the state
Department of Health on Friday.
The department, as I understood it,
after reviewing the law and reviewing the grounds
asserted in the request, came to the conclusion that a
waiver could be appropriately granted. We were advised
that the long-form birth certificate could be copied and
made available to us as early as Monday, April 25th --
the day before yesterday. And we made arrangements for
counsel to travel to Honolulu to pick it up and it was
returned to the White House yesterday afternoon.
Let me emphasize again, there is a
specific statute that governs access to and inspection
of vital records in the state of Hawaii. The birth
certificate that we posted online is, in fact, and
always has been, and remains, the legal birth
certificate of the President that would be used for all
legal purposes that any resident of Hawaii would want to
use a birth certificate for.
However, there is legal authority in
the department to make exceptions to the general policy
on not releasing the long-form birth certificate. The
policy in question, by the way, on non-release has been
in effect since the mid-1980s, I understand. So while I
cannot tell you what the entire history of exceptions
has been, it is a limited one. This is one of very few
that I understand have been granted for the reasons set
out in private counselís letter.
MR. PFEIFFER: We'll be happy to take
Q: I guess I just want to make sure
that weíre clear on this. Even though this one says
"Certificate Of Live Birth" on here, this is different
than the other certificate of live birth that weíve
MR. PFEIFFER: Yes. The second page
there is the one that was posted on the Internet.
MR. PFEIFFER: And that is a copy of
the one that has been kept at the Hawaii Department of
Q: Okay. And this is the one that
would be referred to -- that people have been asking for
that is the birth certificate?
MR. PFEIFFER: They are both -- the
second one is the birth certificate. The one on the top
is what is referred to as the long-form birth
certificate. As you can see -- and Bob can walk you
through it -- it contains some additional information
that is not on the second page, which was the birth
certificate which was released during the campaign.
If you could just explain the
MR. BAUER: Thereís a difference
between a certificate and a certification. The
certification is simply a verification of certain
information thatís in the original birth certificate. The birth certificate, as you can see, has signatures at
the bottom from the attending physician, the local
registrar, who essentially oversees the maintenance of
the records. It contains some additional information
also -- that is to say, the original birth certificate
-- it contains some additional information like the ages
of the parents, birthplaces, residence, street address,
the name of the hospital.
The core information thatís required
for legal purposes and that is put into the actual
certification thatís a computer-generated document,
which we posted in 2008, that information is abstracted,
if you will, from the original birth certificate, put
into the computerized short-form certification, and made
available to Hawaiian residents at their request.
So the long form, which is a
certificate, has more information, but the short form
has the information thatís legally sufficient for all
the relevant purposes.
Q: This first one has never been
released publicly, correct?
MR. BAUER: Thatís correct. It is in a
bound volume in the records at the state Department of
Health in Hawaii.
Q: Bob, can you explain why President
Obama let this drag on for four years? Was it Donald
Trump that prompted you to issue this?
MR. BAUER: Iíll let Dan --
MR. PFEIFFER: Sure.
Q: I know you expected that question,
MR. PFEIFFER: He even said you
would be the one who would ask it. (Laughter.)
I donít think this dragged on for four
years because this was a resolved -- for those of you
who remember the campaign, this issue was resolved in
2008. And it has not been an issue, none of you have
asked about it, called about it, reported on it until
the last few weeks.
And as I said earlier, it probably
would have been -- a lot of the pundits out there have
talked about the fact that this whole Birther debate has
been really bad for the Republican Party and would
probably be good for the president politically. But
despite that, the president, as I said, was struck by
how this was crowding out the debate, particularly
around the budget, on important issues, and was an
example of the sort of sideshows that our politics
focuses on instead of the real challenges that we have
to confront as a country.
And so thatís why he made this
decision now, because it became an issue that
transcended sort of this -- it essentially was something
that was talked about, as I said, from the nether
regions of the Internet onto mainstream network
newscasts. In fact, Jay has been asked about this just
yesterday in this room.
Q: So I guess the implication is that
you did get political advantage by having not released
this until today, over the course of the last four
MR. PFEIFFER: There has been -- no one
that I can recall actually asked us to -- we were asked
to release the presidentís birth certificate in 2008. We
did that. And then no one -- it never -- up until a few
weeks ago, there was never an issue about that that
wasnít the birth certificate from any credible
individual or media outlet. And it hasnít been until --
I mean, Jay was asked about this yesterday --
Q: When you say that, you mean
certification -- you released the certification?
MR. PFEIFFER: When any Hawaiian wants
-- requests their birth certificate because they want to
get a driverís license, they want to get a passport,
they do exactly what the president did in 2008. And
thatís what that is. And we released that. And thatís
what any Hawaiian would do to release their birth
certificate. And that was good enough for everyone until
very recently this became a question again. And so the
president made this decision. Heíll talk to you more
about his thinking on that.
Q: And this is going to sound -- I
mean, you can just anticipate what people are going to
-- remain unconvinced. Theyíre going to say that this is
just a photocopy of a piece of paper, you could have
typed anything in there. Will the actual certificate be
on display or viewable at any -- (laughter.)
Q: Will the President be holding it?
MR. PFEIFFER: He will not, and I will
not leave it here for him to do so. But it will -- the
State Department of Health in Hawaii will obviously
attest that that is a -- what they have on file.
said, itís in a book in Hawaii.
MR. BAUER: And youíll see the letter
from the director of the Health Department that states
that she oversaw the copy and is attesting to --
Q: But do you understand that this
could quiet the conspiracy theorists?
MR. PFEIFFER: There will always be
some selection of people who will believe something, and
that's not the issue. The issue is that this is not a
discussion that is just happening among conspiracy
theorists. Itís happening here in this room; itís
happening on all of the networks. And itís something
that, as I said, every major political figure of both
parties whoís actually out trying to talk about real
issues is asked about this by the media. And so the
president decided to release this. And I'll leave it to
others to decide whether thereís still -- there will be
some who still have a different -- have a conspiracy
Q: Youíve got two certified copies,
according to this study. You have these physical --
MR. PFEIFFER: Yes. I showed you one. Just one.
Q: You showed us a photocopy of one.
MR. PFEIFFER: No, I showed you --
Q: Does that have a stamp?
MR. PFEIFFER: It has a seal on it.
Q: Why does this rise to the level of
a presidential statement?
MR. PFEIFFER: The president -- this in
itself -- when you hear the president I think youíll
understand the point heís making. That will be in not
Q: Did the president change his own
mind about this? In other words, was he advocating
during the campaign letís just put it out there and get
it over with, or was this an internal shift in thinking
based -- in other words, was it the president who
steadfastly during the campaign said this is ridiculous,
I don't want to give this any more ground, and has now
changed his mind? Or is this the --
MR. PFEIFFER: Letís be very clear. You
were there for the campaign. There was never a question
about the original birth certificate during the
campaign. It was a settled issue. I was there for the
original decision to release the birth certificate. I
was there when we posted it online. I'm not sure I even
knew there was an original one that was different than
the one we posted online because it wasnít an issue. So
it wasnít like -- letís be very clear. We were asked for
the presidentís birth certificate in 2008; we released
the presidentís birth certificate; and it was done. That
And so there hasnít been a discussion
about this other document for years. Itís only been in
the last few weeks. And so to your second question, the
president decided to do this and he'll talk about this
when he gets here -- decided to do it at the timeline
that Bob laid out because it was a -- this was a
sideshow that was distracting from the real challenges
that we're facing.
Itís not just a sideshow for him; itís
a sideshow for our entire politics that have become
focused on this.
Q: Not to give Donald Trump more
publicity than he has, but is he the person who sort of
-- sort of that bridge between what you're calling a
fringe and the mainstream? Do you think that heís the
reason why this tripped the switch to a level where you
now have to deal with something you thought was dealt
MR. PFEIFFER: Itís not for me to say
why mainstream media organizations began to cover this
debate. Theyíll have to answer that for themselves.
Q: How concerned were you about running
against Donald Trump in a general election?
MR. PFEIFFER: I'd refer any questions
on the election to the campaign.
Q: Can you address the reports of
Petraeus to the CIA and DOD --
MR. PFEIFFER: You get points for that,
MR. CARNEY: Yes. I don't have --
but youíll be disappointed to learn that I don't have a
personnel announcement for you. The president will be
addressing this -- questions about personnel tomorrow.
Q: Dan, was there a debate about
whether or not this deserved being discussed by the
White House, whether or not -- and I'm going back to the
birth certificate. I lose points, I understand. But was
there debate about whether or not this was worthy of the
MR. PFEIFFER: The point I'd make is
that we weren't the ones who -- we're not the first ones
to bring this up in this room. Jay has been asked
questions about this; the president has been asked about
it in media interviews. And so that wasnít a decision
that we made, and the president made the decision to do
this and he made the decision to -- and when he comes
down here this morning he'll talk to you about why he
thinks thereís an important point to be made here.
Q: Getting back to the personnel
announcements, does the president understand that these
announcements have been made and sourced satisfactorily
for most news organizations before he speaks up and heís
not letting his White House corroborate?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have a comment on
that for you, Bill. (Laughter.)
Q: I mean, this is such BS. Itís all
out there and you guys are -- okay, the president is
going to talk about this tomorrow so we can't say
MR. CARNEY: Bill, you're free to make
phone calls everywhere you can. I'm just saying that we
don't have a personnel announcement for you today.
Q: And he'll tomorrow, he'll cover all
the aforementioned switches?
MR. CARNEY: We'll have a personnel
Q: Jay, yesterday you talked about
failsafe triggers as sort of a positive alternative to
spending cuts. I'm wondering if the White House has any
openness to including that, because itís a White House
proposal, including that in any legislation that would
raise the debt ceiling limit.
MR. CARNEY: Well, what we've said very
clearly, and I think Secretary Geithner said it
eloquently yesterday, it is a dangerous, risky idea to
hold hostage any other -- hold hostage, rather, raising
the debt ceiling, a vote on raising the debt ceiling, to
any other piece of legislation. The commitment this
president has to moving aggressively towards a
comprehensive deficit reduction plan is clear. It will
be clear again when the vice president convenes a
meeting, bipartisan, bicameral meeting, next week. And
he hopes that progress will be made on that very
In terms of negotiating what that
would look like, I think the negotiators should do that,
led by the vice president, Republicans and Democrats
together. But again, explicitly linking or holding
hostage the absolute necessity of raising the debt
ceiling to any other piece of legislation and declaring
that we'll tank the U.S. economy and perhaps the global
economy if we don't get this specific thing that we
want, I think is a dangerous and unprecedented thing to
And we're confident, remain confident,
that the leaders of both parties in Congress, as well as
the president, will agree with the president, as I have
said many times, that we do not have an alternative to
raising the debt ceiling because, as many have said,
outside observers, economists and businessmen and women,
the impact of that would be calamitous at best.
Q: So even though itís your own
proposal that you guys endorsed you don't want to see it
as part of the final package?
MR. CARNEY: I'm not negotiating
individual pieces of a package that we hope Republicans
and Democrats can come together around from this podium.
But again, we believe itís essential to -- the President
believes -- that's one of the reasons why we're doing
this right now -- we believe that these are big debates
that need to be had. They can be contentious,
argumentative, serious, comprehensive, detailed, because
theyíre important; theyíre all about Americaís future.
And theyíre about visions of this country and where
we're going that need to be debated. And this debate was
being crowded out in many ways by a sideshow.
And he looks forward to having a
debate on the real issues that Americans want us to talk
about -- long-term economic plans, deficit reduction,
investments in the kinds of things that will help this
economy grow and create jobs, dealing with our energy
needs, a long-term energy plan. These are all issues
that have been sidetracked at least in the public debate
by some of the issues that we're talking about this
Q: Is there a concern that more and
more people were actually starting to believe its
sideshow -- I mean, people have been asking about --
MR. CARNEY: I will let the president
speak for himself, but what Dan was saying and I think
is important is that the issue here is that the
president feels that this was bad for the country; that
itís not healthy for our political debate, when we have
so many important issues that Americans care about, that
affect their lives, to be drawn into sideshows about
fallacies that have been disproven with the full weight
of a legal document for several years.
So, again, as Dan said, and a lot of
political pundits have said, you could say that it would
be good politics, smart politics, for the president to
let this play out. He cares more about whatís good for
the country. He wants the debate on the issues. He wants
the focus on the issues that Americans care about.
Q: Jay, the president yesterday said
that he had been talking to oil exporters about
increasing output. Who specifically has he been talking
MR. CARNEY: Well, I said -- I want to
clarify. I said several times I believe from this podium
when asked questions about our overall handling of the
issue of high gas prices that we've had conversations
with oil-producing states and allies and those
conversations continue. I don't have specific "the
president spoke with this leader or other government
officials spoke with others," but those are ongoing
conversations that, of course, we would be having in a
situation like this.
Q: Do you guys have any comment on the
NATO soldiers that were killed in Afghanistan and any
confirmation on whether there were Americans?
MR. CARNEY: I don't have anything for
you on that this morning.
Q: Just quickly, back on the birth
certificate, yesterday you said this was a settled
issue. So --
MR. CARNEY: Well, as Dan said, again,
it has been a settled issue.
MR. PFEIFFER: From a factual point of
view, itís absolutely a settled issue. But the fact that
it was a settled issue did not keep it from becoming a
major part of the political discussion in this town for
the last several weeks here. So thereís absolutely no
question that what the president released in 2008 was
his birth certificate and answered that question, and
many of your organizations have done excellent reporting
which proved that to be the case. But it continued; the
president thought it was a sideshow and chose to take
this step today for the reasons Bob laid out.
Q: Aside from the policy distractions
that was presented, did you have some concern because it
was sort of reaching back into the mainstream news
coverage that this could become a factor in the 2012
election with centrist voters?
MR. PFEIFFER: No.
Q: Just to clarify what this document
MR. PFEIFFER: This is the -- the
letter first and the two certified copies -- this is one
of those. This is the same thing you have a copy of as
the first page of your packet.
Q: How did it get here?
MR. PFEIFFER: As Bob said, it arrived
by plane -- the presidentís personal counsel went to
Hawaii and brought it back and we got it last night.
Q: Last night?
MR. PFEIFFER: Last night.
Q: What time?
MR. PFEIFFER: Between 4:00 p.m. and
Q: When did you decide to do this
MR. PFEIFFER: Whatís that?
Q: When was this gaggle put on -- when
was this planned?
MR. PFEIFFER: Whatever time you
received your guidance suggesting that it would be "this
time tomorrow morning."
Q: Are these letters supposed to
demonstrate the legal steps that were involved in
releasing it to the White House counsel?
MR. BAUER: The letters that you have,
the personal request from the president, along with the
accompanying letter from private counsel, is merely
meant to document the legal path to getting the waiver
of that policy so we could get the long-form
Q: The waiver of Hawaii state
MR. BAUER: Right. The non-release of
the long-form certificate, which has been in effect
since the 1980s -- a natural question would have been,
well, what did you do to obtain the waiver, and those
letters represent the request.
Q: Well, isnít it true that anybody
who was born in Hawaii can write this letter? I mean,
that's all there is to the waiver process?
MR. BAUER: No. Let me just explain
once again because I also noticed, by the way, in one
report already the wrong certificate was actually posted
on the website. The certificate with the signatures at
the bottom -- and that's a key difference between the
short form and the long form -- the long form has
signatures at the bottom from the attending physician,
the local registrar, and the mother, is the original
birth certificate, which sits in a bound volume in the
State Department of Health.
The short from is a computerized
abstract, and that's the legal birth certificate we
requested in 2008 and that Hawaiians are entitled to.
Since the mid-1980s, the State Department of Health, for
administrative reasons, only provides to people who
request their birth certificate the short form. They do
not provide the long form.
So in order for us to obtain the long
form, we had to have a waiver. We had to actually
determine that there was a legal basis for providing it,
and then ask them to exercise their authority to provide
us with the long form. The steps required to accomplish
that were a letter from the person with the direct and
vital interest -- the president -- so you have a letter
from the president, and then there was an accompanying
letter from counsel basically formalizing the request. So the reason we included that is that those were legal
steps we took to obtain the long form by way of this
Q: Do we have the letter from the
MR. BAUER: Itís in the packet.
Q: And you went to Hawaii?
MR. BAUER: I did not go to Hawaii. The counsel, Judy Corley, who signed the -- the
presidentís personal counsel at Perkins Coie, Judy
Corley, whose letter -- signed letter of request is in
your packet, traveled to Honolulu and picked up the
Q: A question on the situation
regarding the Defense of Marriage Act. Yesterday
Attorney General Eric Holder rejected attacks on Paul
Clement, who is taking up defense of the statute on
behalf of the U.S. House. Paul Clement has taken a lot
of heat from the LGBT community for volunteering to take
up defense of DOMA. Eric Holder said, "Paul Clement is a
great lawyer and has done a lot of really great things
for this nation. In taking on the representation --
representing Congress in connection with DOMA, I think
he is doing that which lawyers do when weíre at our
best. That criticism I think was very misplaced." And
Holder went on to compare the criticism of Clement to
attacks on the Justice Department lawyers for their past
for detainees at Guantanamo Bay. Does the president
share Eric Holderís views on this?
MR. CARNEY: We do share Eric Holderís
views on this. We think -- as we said from the beginning
when we talked about -- when I did from this podium --
about the decision no longer from the administration to
defend the Defense of Marriage Act, that we would
support efforts by Congress if they so chose to defend
it. And so I have nothing to add to the Attorney
Q: Following Mondayís Af-Pak Situation
Room meeting, what is the presidentís assessment of the
situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan? And does he think
that July drawdown is still on?
MR. CARNEY: The presidentís policy,
which included the beginning of a transition --
beginning of a drawdown of American troops, is
absolutely still on track. I donít have anything
additionally from the meeting yesterday beyond what
weíve said. But the policy remains as it was.
MR. EARNEST: Jay, we should wrap it up
MR. CARNEY: Yes. Last one, yes.
Q: Given the comments of the Pakistani
official quoted in the Wall Street Journal, is Pakistan
still a U.S. ally, and to what extent?
MR. CARNEY: Pakistan is still a U.S.
END 9:18 A.M. EDT