U.S. Policy Update for Friday, 18 March 2016

President Obama with Chief Judge Merrick Garland at White House

President Obama on Appointment of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to Supreme Court  

16 March 2016 Remarks by the President in Conference Call with Stakeholders  “As you now know, I nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the D.C. Circuit to serve as the next associate justice on the Supreme Court.  This is not a decision I ever take lightly.  I’ve now seated two Supreme Court justices; this would be the third.

The Honorable Merrick B. Garland
The Honorable Merrick B. Garland

I chose Chief Judge Garland because this guy is as well-qualified as anybody who’s ever been nominated to the Supreme Court.  That’s not just my opinion, that’s pretty much a universal opinion.  He possesses one of America’s sharpest legal minds.  He brings a spirit of decency and modesty and integrity and even-handedness to his work.  His work is excellent.  He is somebody who has worked as a prosecutor.  As you know, he is somebody who not only helped lead the investigation around the Oklahoma City bombings, but did so in a way that showed enormous compassion towards the people who had been impacted.

He’s been praised by Republicans and Democrats. During his original confirmation process when he was put on the D.C. Circuit, majorities of each party supported him.  Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, who has been the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said, In all honesty, I would like to see one person come to this floor and say one reason why Merrick Garland does not deserve this position.”


White House

16 March  2016 Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 3/16/2016  On Chief Judge Garland, Press asks if the U.S is in a constitutional crisis; North Korea’s sentencing of 21-year-old student Otto Warmbier to 15 years in prison with hard labor; Syria and possible pressure on Assad following Russian tropp withdrawal; FEMA assistance to town of Flint.


White House & Travel to Cuba

16 March 2016 Press Call to Preview the President’s Travel to Cuba and Argentina   The President and the First Family will arrive on Sunday — Sunday afternoon.  The first day will include a visit from the First Family to a variety of sites in Old Havana, focused on cultural outreach…..On Monday, the President will have the official program will begin with a wreath laying at the José Marti Memorial in Havana.  He will then proceed to the bilateral meeting with President Castro.  That night the President will attend a state dinner at the Revolutionary Palace….
On Tuesday, Tuesday morning, the President will deliver remarks addressed to the Cuban people broadly.  Following that speech, the President will attend a meeting with members of Cuban civil society.  … I’ll pause here and also note that on the trip the President will be joined by the First Lady, as well as Malia and Sasha Obama, as well as Mrs. Marian Robinson.  They will be coming to both Cuba and Argentina.  While in Cuba and going on to Argentina, as part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, Mrs. Obama will talk with high school-age girls.
ISIL/Daesh and Genocide 

16 March 2016 Secretary Kerry’s Remarks on Daesh and Genocide   “In 2014, the terrorist group Daesh began to seize territory in Syria and Iraq, overrunning major cities and committing atrocities. The United States responded quickly by denouncing these horrific acts and – more importantly – taking coordinated actions to counter them. In September of that year, President Obama mobilized an international coalition, now 66 members strong, to halt and reverse Daesh’s momentum.

My purpose in appearing before you today is to assert that, in my judgment, Daesh is responsible for genocide against groups in areas under its control, including Yezidis, Christians, and Shia Muslims. Daesh is genocidal by self-proclamation, by ideology, and by actions – in what it says, what it believes, and what it does. Daesh is also responsible for crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing directed at these same groups and in some cases also against Sunni Muslims, Kurds, and other minorities.

Part of our response to Daesh must, of course, be to destroy it by military force, but other dimensions are important as well, and we dare not lose track of that. In the past two and a half years, the United States has provided more than 600 million in emergency aid to Iraqis who have been displaced from their communities by Daesh. We are working closely with local authorities to assist in the recovery of cities that have been liberated and whose residents face grave challenges – both material and psychological – and people who desperately need help in rebuilding their lives. We are funding the investigation of mass graves, and supporting care for the victims of gender-based violence and those who have escaped captivity.”


North Korea

16 March 2016  State Dept. On North Korea’s Reported Missile Launch  We have seen reports that North Korea launched a ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.  We are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula….The United States remains steadfast in its commitments to the defense of its allies, including the Republic of Korea and Japan. We will continue to coordinate closely with our allies and partners in the region.

State Department, Office of the Historian

State Dept. Office of the Historian
State Dept. Office of the Historian

16 March 2016 Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs Release of Foreign Relations of the United States, 1981-1988, Volume III, Soviet Union, January 1981-January 1983
The Department of State released today Foreign Relations of the United States, 1981–1988, Volume III, Soviet Union, January 1981–January 1983. It is the first of four Soviet bilateral volumes in the subseries.

Cold War flashpoints and disputes during this period included: the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan; the potential Soviet invasion of Poland; the possibility that the Reagan administration would act to delay Soviet construction of a Siberian gas pipeline to Western Europe; the execution of NATO’s 1979 “Dual Track Decision”; the implementation of a strategic modernization program on the part of the United States; and Soviet meddling in Central America and the Middle East. Additionally, three cases of Soviet human rights abuses drew and sustained President Reagan’s personal attention: Anatoly Shcharanskiy, Andrei Sakharov, and a group of Siberian Pentecostals living in the basement of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

This compilation was compiled and edited by James Graham Wilson. The volume and this press release are available on the Office of the Historian website at https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1981-88v03. Copies of the volume will be available for purchase from the U.S. Government Publishing Office online at https://bookstore.gpo.gov/ (GPO S/N 044-000-02677-5; ISBN 978-0-16-093227-4), or by calling toll-free 1-866-512-1800 (D.C. area 202-512-1800).  For further information, contact history@state.gov.