Secretary of State John Kerry suggested on Thursday that the United States would play a greater role in alleviating the increasingly high-profile Syrian refugee crisis, which the United Nations believes to be the worst refugee dilemma in 25 years. “We could do a lot more to protect those people,” Kerry told The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein. Speaking from the State Department, Kerry acknowledged that while America has donated over $4 billion in humanitarian assistance to help Syrians, the situation in their war-ravaged country and in neighboring states remains dire for millions. Kerry did not suggest that the U.S. should be taking in more refugees. Rather, he indicated that any increased American effort would focus on working with existing refugee camps in other countries.
President Barack Obama speaks while participating in a roundtable discussion on the impacts of climate change on public health with Vivek Murthy, U.S. surgeon general, left, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), second from right, and Charlotte Wallace, sustainability coordinator at Anne Arundel Medical Center, third from right, at Howard University
On This Day: President Obama reacts to a picture presented to him of a younger Robert Gibbs, who played soccer at North Carolina State, following a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Today (All Times Eastern)
11:15: The President meets with a group of House Democrats on economic issues, Roosevelt Room
12:0: White House press briefing
3:0: The President departs White House
3:25: Meets with wounded service members, Walter Reed Hospital
Reuters: Table For Five: Obama To Dine With Kansas City Penpals
Valerie, a single mom from Kansas City, Missouri, who owns a small business, wrote to President Barack Obama last week “in the middle of the night,” describing just how hard she works.
On Tuesday, she will get the chance to tell Obama in person as one of four people the president dines with in a visit to the midwestern city – part of a summertime White House campaign to rouse Democratic voters ahead of November midterm elections.
“Are you serious?” said Valerie – whose last name was not provided – to Josh Earnest, Obama’s press secretary, who phoned her to invite her to the dinner.
“Oh my God! I would love it!” she told Earnest in a video made by the White House.
Jesse Rosenfeld: Israel Creates ‘No Man’s Land’ In Gaza, Shrinking Strip By 40 Percent
To protect itself from Hamas rockets and tunnels, Israel is forcing tens of thousands of people out of their homes, turning their old neighborhoods into a no-man’s land.
BEIT HANOUN, Gaza — This narrow strip of land that used to be called “the Gaza Strip,” already one of the more densely populated places on earth, is growing dramatically smaller. The Israeli military, relentlessly and methodically, is driving people out of the three-kilometer (1.8 mile) buffer zone it says it needs to protect against Hamas rockets and tunnels. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the buffer zone eats up about 44 percent of Gaza’s territory.
What that means on the ground is scenes of extraordinary devastation in places like the Al Shajaya district approaching Gaza’s eastern frontier, and Beit Hanoun in the north. These were crowded neighborhoods less than three weeks ago. Now they have been literally depopulated, the residents joining more than 160,000 internally displaced people in refuges and makeshift shelters. Apartment blocks are fields of rubble, and as I move through this hostile landscape the phrase that keeps ringing in my head is “scorched earth.”
Michael Hiltzik: Here’s The Single Best Analysis Of The Halbig Anti-Obamacare Ruling
Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman moves past the absurd legal theory underlying the Halbig ruling on the Affordable Care Act — in which a federal appeals court invalidated subsidies provided to insurance buyers on federal, as opposed to state, insurance exchanges — to ask why the lawsuit’s backers brought the case in the first place. We know the consequences of the ruling: If it stands, about 4.8 million Americans will lose their subsidies and likely their health insurance, since it would be rendered unaffordable; there are residents of as many as 36 states that let the federal government establish their exchanges.
Are 4.8 million Americans losing their health insurance ‘collateral damage’? The Halbig lawyers don’t care: http://t.co/49zRzXG8YZ
But is that what the plaintiffs and their backers really desired? And if not, what was their real goal? Koppelman’s conclusion is that the lawsuit is a product of the “moral dysfunction” infecting the fight over Obamacare. “The opponents of Obamacare,” he writes in the New Republic, “have from the beginning found themselves driven by the logic of their position to make arguments that are increasingly morally repulsive.” In this case and others aimed at overturning the ACA, he writes, the argument is that “if you get sick and you can’t pay for it, that’s your tough luck.” Koppelman doesn’t think the plaintiffs really believe that. He thinks they’re merely out to make a narrow ideological point about government responsibility, and the 4.8 million possible victims of their campaign are merely collateral damage.
Business Insider: Israel Grants First Golan Heights Oil Drilling License To Dick Cheney-Linked Company
Israel has granted a U.S. company the first license to explore for oil and gas in the occupied Golan Heights, John Reed of the Financial Times reports.
A local subsidiary of the New York-listed company Genie Energy — which is advised by former vice president Dick Cheney and whose shareholders include Jacob Rothschild and Rupert Murdoch — will now have exclusive rights to a 153-square mile radius in the southern part of the Golan Heights.
That geographic location will likely prove controversial. Israel seized the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War in 1967 and annexed the territory in 1981. Its administration of the area — which is not recognized by international law — has been mostly peaceful until the Syrian civil war broke out 23 months ago.
Virginia’s same-sex marriage ban was ruled unconstitutional on Monday in the first such decision by a federal appellate court in the South. “We recognize that same-sex marriage makes some people deeply uncomfortable. However, inertia and apprehension are not legitimate bases for denying same-sex couples due process and equal protection of the laws,” Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote. The 2-1 ruling applies throughout the circuit that also includes West Virginia, Maryland, and the Carolinas, where the attorneys general split Monday on what they’ll do next. Virginians voted 57 percent to 43 percent in 2006 to amend their constitution to ban gay marriage.
Virginia laws prohibit recognizing same-sex marriages performed in other states. Floyd said such measures “impermissibly infringe on its citizens’ fundamental right to marry.” The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond is the second federal appellate court to overturn gay marriage bans, and the first to affect the South, a region where the rising tide of rulings favoring marriage equality is testing concepts of states’ rights that have long held sway. Gay marriage proponents have won more than 20 legal decisions around the country since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act last year. Most are still under appeal. More than 70 cases have been filed in all 31 states that prohibit same-sex marriage. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia allow such marriages.
CNBC: US Confidence Jumps In July As Consumers See Better Days Ahead
Consumers grew more confident about the economy in July, The Conference Board reported on Tuesday, with stock markets perched near record highs and expectations building for the recovery. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index rose to 90.9, higher than expectations and above the prior month’s showing of 86.4. That was the component’s highest since October 2007.
President Obama eats a peach following a town hall meeting at Kroger’s Supermarket in Bristol, Va. on July 29, 2009. Seconds later, the President handed a dollar bill to the CEO of Kroger’s, who attended the event (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama listens to a question at a town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C. on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
The hands of U.S. Secret Service agents as President Obama shakes hands along a rope line following a health care town hall meeting at Broughton High School in Raleigh, N.C on July 29, 2009 (Photo by Pete Souza)
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Crime victim Lisa Marie Iyotte gets emotional while introducing President Obama before he signed the Tribal Law and Order Act during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House, on July 29, 2010
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First Lady Michelle Obama greets U.S. military families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, England, July 29, 2012
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President Obama greets former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Outer Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama has lunch with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the patio outside the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Obama meets with Secretary of State John Kerry in the Oval Office, July 29, 2013 (Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia. President Barack Obama envisions a time when cars will be able to talk with other cars or with America’s roads. He says such technology could prevent crashes, cut down on traffic and save gasoline.
President Barack Obama is given a tour of vehicles equipted with V2I technology by Joe Peters while at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center in McLean, Virginia
President Barack Obama looks over his shoulder while driving a simulator
President Barack Obama greets the family of Make-a-Wish child Diego Diaz, not pictured, before their visit to the Oval Office, June 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Washington Post: President Obama will announce Tuesday in a speech at Georgetown University that he plans to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, according to individuals who have been briefed on the plan but asked not to be identified.
According to individuals familiar with the White House plan, who asked not to be identified since the president has yet to deliver his speech, Obama will couch the effort not only in terms of the nation’s domestic priorities, but as a way to meet the administration’s international pledge to reduce the country’s greenhouse-gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels.
What has Attorney General Eric Holder done lately? Oh…just this huge big freaking deal
US DOJ: The former chief executive officer of a Virginia-based security contracting firm was sentenced in the Eastern District of Virginia to 72 months in prison for creating a front company to obtain more than $31 million intended for disadvantaged small businesses and for bribing the former regional director for the National Capital Region of the Federal Protective Service (FPS) as part of the scheme. The front company obtained the contracts through the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Section 8(a) program, which allows qualified small businesses to receive sole-source and competitive-bid contracts set aside for minority-owned and disadvantaged small businesses. Keith Hedman used his expertise gleaned from decades as a government contractor to cheat the system and steal tens of millions from minority-owned small business owners,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “Today’s sentence shows that those who resort to deceit and bribery to secure federal contracts will be caught and held accountable.”
“Keith Hedman tried to game the system and take advantage of a government program designed to help minority-owned small businesses,” said U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride. “He committed fraud, he undermined the trust of the U.S. government and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. My office is committed to prosecuting those who cheat the government to the fullest extent of the law.” Keith Hedman, 53, of Arlington, Va., was sentenced today after pleading guilty to major government fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery on March 13, 2013. Hedman was also ordered to forfeit approximately $6.1 million.
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa, June 23, 2011. Joining the First Lady are, from left: the First Lady’s niece Leslie Robinson, Malia Obama, Marian Robinson, the First Lady’s nephew Avery Robinson, and Sasha Obama. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
It’s the weekend, so let the wonderful Henry Healy aka “Henry The Eighth” give you behind the scenes details of the week that was
First Lady Michelle Obama talks with young people at the U.S. Consulate meet and greet at the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa, June 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
SmartyPants: There are those who are trying to cast Edward Snowden’s actions as civil disobedience. I suspect that this argument will be intensified now that he has been charged under the Espionage Act by the DOJ. There is some acceptance among his supporters that he has broken the law. But they want to claim the mantle of it being an “unjust law” that requires civil disobedience.
I’m sure there are legal cases to be made on both sides of this claim. But the fact that Snowden fled to Hong Kong to avoid the consequences of his law breaking – more than anything else – disqualifies him from claiming that mantle.
First Lady Michelle Obama, joined by Marian Robinson, Sasha Obama and Malia Obama, tours the District 6 Museum in Cape Town, South Africa, June 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)
Jennifer Medina: Granting any kind of access to health care for immigrants is becoming a focal point in the current Congressional debate, as many Republicans have said they would refuse to support change if it included providing care for immigrants who have been living in the country illegally. Representative Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, for instance, walked out of bipartisan negotiations in the House, arguing that illegal immigrants should be denied emergency room care and that unpaid medical bills should become a deportable offense.
But not in California, where there are an estimated 2.6 million illegal immigrants. Here, public health officials, elected representatives and advocacy groups are going in the opposite direction, trying to cobble together ways to provide preventive care for such immigrants, who are expected to make up the largest share of the remaining uninsured once the state’s expanded Medicaid program takes full effect.
President Barack Obama listens as Vice President Joe Biden makes a point during a meeting with the Democratic leadership in the Oval Office, June 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Welcome to delusional grandeur, Mitt Romney style. Still shaking my head in disgust that he didn’t prepare a concession speech; only a victory speech. That’s hubris.
Rick Klein et al.,: Though Mitt Romney’s candidacy never turned into a presidency, there was a temporary Romney White House complete with a fully operational staff who were building the blueprints for the early days of a Romney administration months before the election that decided his defeat. In this special edition of Top Line, the chair of the Romney transition efforts, Gov. Mike Leavitt, R-Utah, takes us on a tour of the White House that never was—where he says the Romney transition team built “a federal government in miniature.”
“If you had walked down these halls in the day before the election, you would see the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Department of Defense,” Leavitt says, standing inside what was the former transition headquarters in Washington, D.C. “A whole series of executive orders had been written,” he says. “There were regulations that were being developed. There was a list of things we wanted to change. There was a checklist. It was a tick-tock, if you will, of things we wanted to see unfold in a very orderly way.”
President Barack Obama speaks to soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division during a visit to Fort Drum in New York, June 23, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama’s America, is wonderful indeed
Trudy Ring: Eric Fanning, undersecretary of the Air Force, became acting secretary of the branch Friday with the retirement of Michael Donley, making Fanning the highest-ranking LGBT person in the Department of Defense. “President Obama is yet to nominate Donley’s replacement, so Fanning should be serving in the dual roles for a while,” notes BuzzFeed.
The interim assignment makes Fanning the civilian head of the Air Force. The Senate confirmed him as undersecretary in April. Before that, he had been deputy undersecretary and deputy chief management officer for the Navy since 2009. His résumé also includes stints with communications firms, think tanks, and broadcast media, along with several political posts. He is a former Victory Fund board member and a donor to various LGBT causes.
“I left the Pentagon before the reelection [of President Clinton] and then didn’t come back until this administration when we had a president who said he was going to end it,” he told the Blade. “It was very difficult when we were getting to the end of the first two years and it wasn’t clear if we were going to be able to repeal ‘don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I didn’t know what I was going to do if we didn’t get the repeal through because some people couldn’t work because they were openly gay or lesbian.”
12:05: President Obama departs the White House en route Joint Base Andrews
12:20: Departs Joint Base Andrews en route Portsmouth, New Hampshire
1:35: Arrives in Portsmouth
2:05: Delivers remarks at a campaign event at Oyster River High School (live coverage)
4:05: Departs Portsmouth en route Boston, Massachusetts
4:30: Arrives in Boston
5:10: Attends a campaign event (closed press)
7:35: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (live coverage)
9:25: Delivers remarks at a campaign event (private residence)
Tuesday: The President will travel to Atlanta and Miami to attend campaign events. He will return to Washington in the evening.
Wednesday: Will meet with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed. In the evening, the President and First Lady will host a picnic for Members of Congress at the White House.
Thursday and Friday: The President will attend meetings at the White House.
Peter Cohan (Telegram): When he was running for President in 2008, Barack Obama struck me as a gifted orator. But now that he’s running for re-election, it feels to me that the messaging power of his political opponents is like Hurricane Katrina blowing against a chipmunk’s squeal.
So I am confident that a piece of excellent news for drivers resulting from a little-noticed policy from Mr. Obama will get no attention at all from the media.
In April, I predicted that President Obama’s $52 million plan to increase the margin requirements and otherwise tighten the screws on oil speculators — who borrow huge sums to bet on the direction of oil without taking delivery — would cut oil prices by 10 percent. He’s beaten that prediction, and the lowered price of gasoline has added $78.4 billion to its consumers’ spending power.
Michael Tomasky: Democrats Should Come Out Swinging Against the Court – If the Supreme Court overturns the health-care law, Democrats will be tempted to sulk and feel sorry for themselves. But that’s the last thing they should do.
I expect, as I think most of us do, an unfriendly decision (from the Democratic point of view) on the health-care law. Can’t yet say how unfriendly; at the very least, an overturning of the individual mandate, and maybe more. Assuming that’s correct, the question immediately becomes how the president and the Democrats should respond. There’s very little they can do legislatively. But I’ll be watching for rhetoric, tone, even body language. And on those counts, they had damn well better dispense with the usual liberal woe-is-me hand-wringing and shoulder slumping and come out swinging.
They had better communicate to their base that they stand for something, it’s important to them, and they’re pissed. And if they do it the right way, they can make the Supreme Court an issue this fall in a way that might even persuade some swing voters that the court overstepped its bounds. I’d go so far as to say that an aggressive response can reset and reframe the whole health-care debate, once Americans have had their minds focused on this by a blatantly partisan court.
Jonathan Cohn: Do you care how the Supreme Court rules on health care reform this week? I don’t mean in the political sense. I mean in the personal sense — because the law’s fate is a very personal matter for many millions of Americans.
They’re the Americans who have diabetes and Crohn’s disease, cancer and hay fever. They’re the Americans who don’t have access to health benefits and the Americans who have access to health benefits but can’t afford to pay for them…..
The Affordable Care Act won’t help all of these people. But it will help an awful lot of them. In fact, it’s already starting to make a difference….
….. by and large, the Affordable Care Act seems to be working …. Will the Supreme Court stop this progress? … a decision to strike down even part of the law would have grave consequences — for the court’s legitimacy and, perhaps, the norms that make our constitutional system function. It’d also have grave consequences for the people whose employment, financial, or medical status renders them vulnerable — a group that may someday include you, if it doesn’t already.
E.J. Dionne: Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court may make possible something that has yet to happen: an honest and complete discussion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA).
And if it throws out all or part of the law now popularly known as “Obamacare,” we will need a fearless conversation about how a conservative majority of the court has become a cog in a larger right-wing project to make progressive political and legislative victories impossible.
… Maybe now, supporters of the ACA will find their voices and point to the 30 million people the law would help to buy health insurance, how much assistance it gives businesses, how it creates a more rational health insurance market, how it helps those 26 and under stay on their parents’ health plans, how it protects those with pre-existing conditions. “Obamacare” isn’t about President Obama. It’s about beginning to bring an end to the scandal of a very rich nation leaving so many of its citizens without basic health coverage…..
…. Were the health-care law to be eviscerated, those who battled so hard on its behalf might draw at least bittersweet comfort from what could be called the Joni Mitchell Rule, named after the folk singer who instructed us that “you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
Bloomberg: The U.S. Supreme Court should uphold a law requiring most Americans to have health insurance if the justices follow legal precedent, according to 19 of 21 constitutional law professors who ventured an opinion on the most-anticipated ruling in years.
Only eight of them predicted the court would do so.
“The precedent makes this a very easy case,” said Christina Whitman, a University of Michigan law professor. “But the oral argument indicated that the more conservative justices are striving to find a way to strike down the mandate.”
…. There was broad agreement that the ruling, barely four months before November’s presidential election, has the potential to hurt the Supreme Court’s reputation as an impartial institution.
Eighteen of the 21 professors said the court’s credibility will be damaged if the insurance requirement – which passed Congress without a single Republican vote – is ruled unconstitutional by a 5-4 majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents.
Steve Benen: Earlier this year, when Texas Gov. Rick Perry was still a presidential candidate, he took aim at Mitt Romney’s controversial private-sector background. Perry told voters, “There is something inherently wrong when getting rich off failure and sticking it to someone else is how you do your business.”
…. In several instances, even when Romney’s firm drove companies into bankruptcy, and even when Bain’s own investors lost, Romney made millions, thanks to fees he charged the companies has they spiraled towards collapse. Taking risks may be a key element to successful capitalism, but this Republican created a system in which risk taking wasn’t necessary.
As far as the election is concerned, Romney is telling voters this background helps prove his qualifications for the presidency. I still haven’t the foggiest idea why.
Jonathan Capehart: There was a great story in The Post yesterday that was nothing but good news for the American consumer. “Gas prices expected to fall further heading into summer” read the headline. Truth be told, the story isn’t new. Dropping pump prices have been reported on for about a month now.
Yet, what interested me most was the chart that accompanied yesterday’s story. It depicts the daily average price for regular gas over the last year, from May 2011 through May 2012. Were it a noise meter, it would also chart the volume of Republican hysteria over rising gas prices.
….. the national average gas price, which peaked at $3.91 in early April, was down to $3.64 on Memorial Day. That’s 17 cents cheaper than a year ago.
According to Politico, Republicans are still going to target the president on gas prices. But with fuel costs expected to continue their downward slide, the GOP can expect its credibility on this issue to follow suit.
Richard Adams (The Guardian): ….Last night – under the cover of darkness – the Mitt Romney campaign published what it claims to be a birth certificate for “Willard Mitt bin Romney”.
As we can plainly see, this is obviously a forgery, and Donald Trump and Sheriff Joe Arpaio need to get right on it. Here are the five key signs:
1. This is clearly not a birth certificate at all. It’s something called a “Certificate of Live Birth” – which suggests the obvious question: where is the birth certificate?
2. This is only the “short form” of the certificate and that is plainly inadequate. Why won’t Mitt Romney publish his “long form” birth certificate? What does he have to hide?
3. Notice that the “date of birth” is listed as March 12, 1947 – but the so-called “certificate” was filed on March 17, 1947. How can Mitt Romney explain this mysterious five day gap during which time he may (or may not) have been smuggled in from Canada? – the foreign country bordering on Michigan.
4. Using my computer I note that this “certificate” image is labeled: “Adobe Photoshop JPEG file”. Clear signs of a forgery?
5. “Father’s birthplace: Mexico”. Come on, do I have to paint you a picture for this one?
To be clear, none of these obvious errors, omissions and forgery are evidence that Mitt Romney was born abroad and has engaged in a decades-long conspiracy to conceal his foreign birth – we are merely asking questions. And putting words in italics for sinister effect. That’s all. Over to you, Donald.
LA Times: President Obama ruffled some feathers two years ago when he lambasted the Supreme Court for its Citizens United decision during a State of the Union speech. It was unusual for a president to criticize the justices as they sat before him.
Now, retired Justice John Paul Stevens has taken the equally unusual step of saying the president was right in challenging the court’s opinion.
Obama said the 5-4 ruling freeing corporations to spend unlimited sums on elections “reversed a century of law,” adding it would “open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”
“In that succinct comment, the former professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago made three important and accurate observations about the Supreme Court majority’s opinion,” Stevens said in a speech Wednesday evening. “First, it did reverse a century of law; second, it did authorize unlimited election-related expenditures by America’s most powerful interests; and, third, the logic of the opinion extends to money spent by foreign entities.”
Tuesday: The President will travel to Albany, New York for an official event on the economy. In the evening, the President will return to Washington, DC to deliver the keynote address at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies 18th Annual Gala Dinner at the Ritz Carlton.
Wednesday: The President will attend meetings at the White House. In the evening, as part of their “In Performance at the White House” series, the President and First Lady will host a concert in the East Room honoring songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, who will be awarded the 2012 Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. The program will include performances by Sheryl Crow, Michael Feinstein, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Mike Myers, Rumer, Arturo Sandoval, Sheléa and Stevie Wonder.
Thursday: The President will travel to Seattle, Washington and Los Angeles, California for campaign events. The President will remain overnight in Los Angeles, California.
Friday: The President will travel to Reno, Nevada for an official event on the economy. In the afternoon, the President will return to Washington, DC.