The PJ Tatler

Thanks to Budget Hearings This Week, Cabinet Can't Avoid Bombing Questions

Cabinet members who might otherwise stay tight-lipped about the Boston Marathon bombing until more facts are known have little choice this week as department secretaries stream into congressional hearings on their respective segments of President Obama’s FY 2014 budget.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday morning and before the House panel on Thursday. Secretary of State John Kerry, who has been conspicuously mum about the attack considering he was Massachusetts’ longtime senator, appears Wednesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Thursday before the Senate panel.

Today, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey were before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

“Like all Americans, the thoughts and prayers of our people at DOD and all of Washington are with the people of Boston today, especially the families of the victims and those injured by what appears to be a cruel act of terror,” Hagel said. “As the president said yesterday, we still do not know who did this or why. And a thorough investigation will have to determine whether it was planned and carried by a terrorist group, foreign or domestic.”

“It’s important not to jump to conclusions before we have all the facts, but as the White House said last night, ‘Any event with multiple explosive devices, as this appears to be, is clearly an act of terror and will be approached as an act of terror,'” Hagel added. “…I will continue to consult closely with DOD’s senior leaders and my counterparts in other agencies on how we can best support the government’s response and investigation.”

“We’ve been in contact both with state and governmental officials and stand ready to support in any way,” Dempsey added.

Hagel said he was “mindful that many members of the military community had traveled to Boston to participate in this race, and our thoughts are with all of them today.”

“The president has made clear that we will find out who did this. We will find out why they did this. And any responsible individuals or groups will be brought to justice.”

The White House said Obama and Vice President Joe Biden met this morning in the Oval Office with Napolitano, Attorney General Eric Holder, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, Deputy Chief of Staff Alyssa Mastromonaco, Deputy National Security Advisor For Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes, and National Security Advisor to the Vice President Jake Sullivan.

“In the briefing, which was led by Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Lisa Monaco, the President received an update from Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Mueller on the collaborative efforts underway as part of the investigation, including the agency’s close coordination with state and local law enforcement in Boston,” the White House said in a readout from the meeting. “The President also received an update from Secretary Napolitano on coordination underway between DHS and state and local partners across the country to share information, including any additional security steps state and local law enforcement may take.”

Obama said in the press briefing room this morning that he’s told his administration “to take appropriate security measures to protect the American people.”

“When we have more details, they will be disclosed. What I’ve indicated to you is what we know now. We know it was bombs that were set off. We know that obviously they did some severe damage,” he said. “We do not know who did them. We do not know whether this was an act of an organization or an individual or individuals. We don’t have a sense of motive yet.”

The president did not take questions and today’s daily briefing with press secretary Jay Carney was canceled.