President Barack Obama sat down with “Fox News Sunday” for the first time since he took office to discuss the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, congressional gridlock and the perception by some that he is out of touch with the impact of terrorism.
Host Chris Wallace began the interview with questions about the political fallout surrounding Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court. In light of some Republicans suggesting that they would only consider Garland in a lame duck session, Wallace asked the president if he would stand by Garland’s nomination if a Democrat were to succeed him.
“Yes,” Obama said.
When asked for clarification that Garland’s nomination would not be pulled at the end of the term, Obama told Wallace, “Absolutely not.”
The interview then turned to Obama’s response to terrorism, which critics have described as tepid. The president said his “number one priority right now is defeating ISIL.” Obama then maintained that the ways in which the United States approaches counter-terrorism is important.
“When I hear some candidates saying we should carpet bomb innocent civilians, that is not a productive approach to defeating terrorism,” he said. “When I hear people suggesting that we should ban all Muslims from entering the country, that is not a good approach to defeating terrorism.”
Wallace asked about the ways Obama has personally reacted to terrorism, referencing ISIS executions and the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. Obama maintained that resilience and resisting the urge to panic were integral in responding to terrorism.
“There isn’t a president who’s taken more terrorists off the field than me over the last seven and a half years,” Obama said. “I’m the guy who calls the families or meets with them. Or hugs them or tries to comfort a mom or a dad or a husband or a kid after a terrorist attack.”
Obama then discussed the FBI investigation into Clinton’s emails, saying that Clinton’s decision reflected “carelessness.”
“I continue to believe that she has not jeopardized America’s national security. Now what I’ve also said is that, and she’s acknowledged, that there’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned. And she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective.”
The president assured Wallace that politics would not enter the investigation.
“I do not talk to the attorney general about pending investigations,” Obama said. “I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations.”
Wallace asked for clarification, to which the president said that “nobody is above the law.”
“I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department or the FBI,” Obama said. “Not just in this case but in any case. Full stop. Period. ”