Briefing Bites
February 2nd, 2011
05:12 PM ET

Briefing Bites

WASHINGTON (CNN) - After no briefing yesterday, this afternoon's White House briefing was the first opportunity since Monday to get more details about the White House's views on the events in Egypt. While 95 percent of the hour-long briefing was about the situation in Egypt, Robert Gibbs did touch on several domestic issues, including the massive snowstorm hitting much of the U.S.

Click below on the top three exchanges from today's briefing.On timetable of Mubarak stepping down:

President Obama said last night that the transition of power in Egypt should "begin now." Our White House Correspondent Dan Lothian asked Gibbs to clarify what the "now" actually means:

MR. GIBBS:  "This is - again, I want to be clear.  This is  - though we are in the here and now, now started yesterday.  Again, I think that's what, Dan - what the people of Egypt want to see is not some process that starts a week, a month or several months from now.  This is a -

Q    So you’re not satisfied with September as an out date for President Mubarak?

MR. GIBBS:  If you’re asking if now is September, it is unseasonably warm, but it is not September.  Now means now.  The transition - there are things that the government needs to do.  There are reforms that need to be undertaken, and there are opposition entities that have to be included in the conversations as we move toward free and fair elections that we’ve advocated for quite some time.

Q    So is the White House then satisfied with Mubarak in power until September?

MR. GIBBS:  Again, I am not going to get into all the details of what they discussed.  The conversation was frank and the transition must begin now."

On press access to President Obama's events:

For the second day in a row, all of the events on President Obama's schedule have been closed to TV cameras. Yesterday, the Cabinet meeting had still photographers but no reporters or  network cameras. And then today's signing of the new START treaty was also closed to the press. Gibbs was asked about the lack of opportunities to ask Obama any questions:

MR. GIBBS:  "Ben, I think you’ll get a chance likely to talk to the President later in the week when Prime Minister Harper is here.  We have had a couple of occasions that have been still photographers only.  It was - those are part of the coverage plans that have been in place for a bit now in terms of those events.

I will say this, Ben.  I think we have, like you all, watched a series of rapidly moving events.  You’ve heard from the President in what’s happened in Egypt.  We’ll continue to keep you up to date as best we can on what goes on, knowing, quite honestly, that some things in foreign policy have to be done away from TV cameras.  Those are the types of direct and frank talks that the President had last night with President Mubarak.

Q    So it was to avoid questions on Egypt?

MR. GIBBS:  I said that it was not."

On the massive snowstorm:

Only two or three non-Egypt related topics came up in today's briefing. Gibbs was asked to update the economic and overall impacts the snowstorm was having on the U.S.:

MR. GIBBS:  "Well, look, I would say a couple of different things.  Obviously each of the past two days the President has spoken directly with - I’m sorry - directly with FEMA Director Craig Fugate on the preparations that we are assisting with across the number of states have been affected by the breadth of this winter storm.  I think you all got a readout yesterday that indicated that FEMA had coordinators on the ground across the arc in the country of where we were predicted to see that winter weather.

They spoke again today.  The President received another update.  I believe the FEMA director was going to do a briefing on camera today to talk about some of the preparations that have been had as we assist state and local entities and as we help businesses deal with the repercussions of, say, losing power or things like that.  Obviously we anticipate that we could see appeals for disaster declarations, again, which come from the state level up to the federal level.

I think at this point it is hard to make some broad macroeconomic determinations about the impact of this storm.  Obviously we’ve had tricky weather for, as is the wont of this time of the year, for many weeks.  How that affects some economic statistics or hiring certainly remains to be seen."

Topics: Briefing Bites • Egypt • Robert Gibbs

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