Obama cuts back his Latin America trip to deal with Libya crisis.
Skips a tour of Mayan ruins Wednesday to hold conference call with national security staff before leaving.
Earlier: Obama and Funes talk immigration, narcotics and gun trafficking during Tuesday meeting.
Pool Report #3:
Hot, muggy. Blistering sun as POTUS walked down the stairs of AF1 at 12:40 PM and worked a line of officials with FLOTUS, Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson and Mama Kaye” POTUS in a dark suit, white shirt and indigo tie. FLOTUS in a purple printed summer dress. A military band played as the First family walked on the red carpet. At the end, two kids dressed in white, a boy and a girl, came forward, brought candies and got kisses. A few dozen schoolkids in uniforms were placed on each side of the military band and held small US and Salvadorian flags. POTUS and FLOTUS, all smiles, shook hands with the first rows of the very excited two groups. They then headed to Marine One. Choppers about to be wheels up at 12:52.
Greeters per WH:
Hugo Martinez, Minister of Foreign Relations
Ambassador Mari Carmen Aponte, US Ambassador to El Salvador
Ambassador Francisco Altschul, Salvadoran Ambassador to the US
Ambassador Jose Roberto Batista, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Chief of Protocol
Robert Blau, Deputy Chief of Mission, US Embassy
Carmen Blau, spouse
Colonel Carlos Figueroa, Ranking DOD Officer US Embassy
Mari Tere Aponte Aloma, Ambassador Aponte’s sister.
Pool Report #2:
Wheels down at 12:27 PM local (2:27 PM Eastern, think of El Salvador as a part of the US Mountain time zone).
Two gaggles, some news:
- POTUS called PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan to thank Turkey for its role in the release of the NYT 4.
- He also called President Sarkozy of France and British PM Cameron on Libya.
- POTUS also spoke to his Natl Security team on Libya.
- there’s a schedule change for today (see below).
Shortly after 10 AM Chile time (9 AM Eastern, 7 AM in El Salvador), Carney and Rhodes came to the press cabin for a short first gaggle.
Rhodes said that POTUS on Monday evening “spoke with Prime minister Erdogan of Turkey, to continue their consultations on the situation in Libya”
“The President expressed appreciation for Turkey’s ongoing humanitarian in Libya including the very important assistance it provided in facilitating the release and safe passage to Tunisia of four New York Times journalists who had been detained in Libyan custody”
POTUS and Erdogan “reaffirmed their full support to the implementation of UNSC resolutio. ns… In order to protect the Libyan people”
“They agreed that this would require a broad based international effort, including air participation, to implement and enforce the UN resolutions, based on both national contributions and enabled by NATO’s unique multinational command and control capabilities”
Then Rhodes went through the tick-tock of POTUS’ notification of the downed plane in Libya on Monday night:
Admiral Mullen spoke by phone to NSA Tom Donilon at 7:30 PM in Santiago “to notify him of the situation that a US plane was down”
“Tom Donilon notified the President at 7:45″ in his hotel suite. “He further updated when the President was en route to the Dinner” at La Moneda “to discuss the fact that the recovery effort was underway”
During the dinner, chief of staff Bill Daley was in contact through a secure line with Tom Donilon who had stayed at the hotel. Daley then updated POTUS twice during the dinner on the recovery effort.
Back at his hotel at midnight, POTUS spoke on the phone with admiral Mullen, who “relayed to him the DoD assessment that the pilots were safe”, said Rhodes.
He then revealed that POTUS had called the emir of Qatar this Tuesday morning on AF1. POTUS “thanked the emir of Qatar for the very important contribution to the international coalition” in Libya.
On the role of NATO in Libya:
“We continue to believe that NATO will have an important role to play in terms of its unique capabilities in command and control”
The coalition will include countries that aren’t part of NATO, so the Alliance would be “part of a command structure that is internationalized when the US shifts”
Rhodes said that Ankara’s efforts were “really essential” in getting the 4 NYT journalists out.
Rhodes also pointed out that AF1′s secure communication capabilities allow POTUS to be updated in real time through conference calls, be it with Robert Gates, Hillary Clinton or Mike Mullen.
Carney and Rhodes came back to the cabin just after 12:00 PM (2:00 PM Eastern). Please check against transcript as we’re rushed out.
Rhodes said that during the flight, POTUS called his NS team (Donilon, Daley, Clinton, Gates, VP Biden, Mullen, McDonough, Blinken…) for an update on the situation in Libya.
He then called Sarkozy, and Cameron.
“They reviewed the substantial progress that’s been made in terms of halting the advance of Qadhafi’s forces on Benghazi as well as the establishment of a no-fly zone” over Libya, said Rhodes.
They also agreed that “NATO should play a key role in the command structure going forward”.
Rhodes says that POTUS’ schedule today has changed and that he’ll visit the tomb of Mgr Romero, martyr of the civil war here and national icon, as soon as today with President Funes after the press conference (should be 2+2 questions). Rhodes couldn’t say if the visit of the Mayan ruins tomorrow was still on, or if the trip was about to be cut short.