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Obama: We need to close Guantanamo Bay

11:54 AM, Apr 30, 2013   |    comments
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US President Barack Obama speaks on the Boston Marathon bombings on April 16, 2013 in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama took questions from reporters at the White House on Tuesday as he marks the first 100 days of his second term.

The president fielded questions on Syria, the terrorist attack on Boston, the sequester and the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Here are some of the highlights:

11:32 a.m. After leaving the podium, Obama returns to answer a shouted question about Jason Collins, the NBA player who became the first active athlete in major league sports to come out as gay. Obama notes that he spoke to Collins on Monday and called him "a terrific young man."

"I told him that I could not be prouder of him," Obama said.

11:26 a.m. Obama says he'll take one last question and it's about the push for an overhaul of immigration laws and his trip later this week to Mexico.

The president repeats that he's confident that a deal on immigration can get done. He also seems to suggest that he's trying not to insert himself too far into the legislative debate.

11:18 a.m. The fifth question is from NBC's Chuck Todd, who asks about the complicated implementation of Obama's health care law.

Obama acknowledges "glitches and bumps" in implementing government programs.

But "if you stay with it, and understand what our long term objective is," Obama said, "we're going to be able to drive down costs" and "improve inefficiencies in the system."

11;12 a.m. Obama says he plans to reengage Congress on closing the military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Many prisoners at Guantanamo are in the midst of a hunger strike. Obama had vowed in his 2008 campaign to close Guantanamo, but failed to get it done in his first term.

"It' is not a surprise to me that we are having problems at Guantanamo." He calls Guantanamo unsafe, expensive, and lessens cooperation with our allies. "It needs to be closed," Obama said.

He notes that Congress has legislatively blocked him from closing Guantanamo.

"I am going to go back at this," said Obama, "I am going to reengage with Congress that this is not in the best interest of the American people."

Guantanamo might have been seen as necessary after the Sept. 11 attacks, but Obama says the time to close the prison for high-value terror suspects on foreign soil is now.

"This is a lingering problem that is not going to get better," Obama says. "It's going to get worse."

11:02 a.m. Obama is asked if he still has the "juice" to get his agenda through Congress following his recent failure to pass gun legislation. Obama responds "Golly!" He also jokes that maybe he should packed things up now and go home.

On a serious note, Obama says he holds hope for bipartisanship and says he's had some "good conversations" with Senators about moving beyond the sequester. "The sequester is a good example," Obama said.

But Obama criticizes Republicans for underestimating the effects of the sequester during last year's campaign. He says they are now unjustly grousing about the effects of sequester.

"There are common sense solutions for our problems right now," Obama said. But he says he can't force Republicans to embrace them.

10:54 p.m. Obama gets a question about law enforcement's reaction to Boston bombing and whether there was a breakdown in the intelligence community that could have prevented the attack.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is performing a review of the intelligence community's reaction to the incident, Obama notes.

"We want to go back and review every step that was taken," Obama says. He adds, "Based on what I have seen so far, the FBI performed it's duties, the Department of Homeland Security did what it is supposed to be doing...But this is hard stuff."

10:46 a.m. President Obama begins press conference about 15 minutes after scheduled start and gets questions about his stated "red line" on Syria as well as a second question about Benghazi.

"My policy from the beginning has been that President Assad has lost credibility," Obama says. The president goes on to note the humanitarian assistance and non-lethal aid to rebels the United States has provided. He repeats that use of chemical weapons would be a "game changer."

He adds on intelligence showing that Assad has likely used chemical weapons, "We don't know how they were used, when they were used or who used them."

Obama says, "We are already deeply engaged" about bringing a solution to the situation in Syria--one that has already left 70,000 civilians dead, since the internal conflict began more than two years.

Obama is pressed on if confirmation of use of chemical weapons would mean military action, but the president only says that it means that his administration would have to rethink its options.

Fox News' Ed Henry also presses on whether victims of last year's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, are being blocked from speaking out on what happened there.

"I am not familiar with notion that anybody has been blocked from testifying," Obama said.

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