President Obama will address the nation on Sunday night “about the steps our government is taking to fulfill his highest priority: keeping the American people safe,” the White House announced this evening.
The press secretary’s office said Obama “will provide an update on the ongoing investigation into the tragic attack in San Bernardino” during the unusual weekend primetime address.
“The president will also discuss the broader threat of terrorism, including the nature of the threat, how it has evolved, and how we will defeat it,” the White House added. “He will reiterate his firm conviction that ISIL will be destroyed and that the United States must draw upon our values – our unwavering commitment to justice, equality and freedom – to prevail over terrorist groups that use violence to advance a destructive ideology.”
It will be only the third time in his presidency that Obama has addressed the nation from the Oval Office. The only other times were both in 2010: when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened in the Gulf of Mexico, and at the end of U.S. combat operations in Iraq.
Obama and French President Francois Hollande spoke by phone today about the “horrific shootings” in San Bernardino, which killed 14 and injured 21.
“On behalf of the American people, the president accepted President Hollande’s condolences for the loss of life in the attack,” the White House said in a readout of the call. “The president briefed President Hollande on what we know about the attack and steps our intelligence and law enforcement agencies are taking to investigate. The two leaders pledged continued cooperation between our two governments and with those of our allies and friends to fight terrorism, both abroad and at home.”
Obama received a briefing on the San Bernardino investigation today from FBI Director James Comey, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and intelligence officials.
“The president’s team highlighted several pieces of information that point to the perpetrators being radicalized to violence to commit these heinous attacks. The president’s team also affirmed that they had as of yet uncovered no indication the killers were part of an organized group or formed part of a broader terrorist cell,” the White House said. “The FBI added that, in coordination with local authorities, they are utilizing all necessary resources to pursue any and all leads in their terrorism investigation. The president directed his team to take all measures necessary to continue to protect the American people, which remains his highest priority.”
His weekly radio address blended the San Bernardino attack and gun control, though the administration hasn’t indicated that Sunday night’s address will focus on anything but terrorism and the fight against ISIS.
“It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror,” Obama said this morning. “And if so, it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years—the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies.”
He called the massacre “another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun.”
“For example, right now, people on the no-fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane. If you’re too dangerous to board a plane, you’re too dangerous, by definition, to buy a gun. And so I’m calling on Congress to close this loophole, now,” he urged. The Senate voted down this past week an amendment from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) that would have blocked people on the terror watchlist from buying guns.
“We may not be able to prevent every tragedy, but—at a bare minimum—we shouldn’t be making it so easy for potential terrorists or criminals to get their hands on a gun that they could use against Americans,” Obama added.
Then he pivoted back to terror. “As president, my highest priority is the security and safety of the American people. This is work that should unite us all—as Americans—so that we’re doing everything in our power to defend our country. That’s how we can honor the lives we lost in San Bernardino,” the president said. “That’s how we can send a message to all those who would try to hurt us. We are Americans. We will uphold our values—a free and open society. We are strong. And we are resilient. And we will not be terrorized.”