Josh Earnest: There Are 'Red Lines' Trump Could Cross That Would Cause Obama to Speak Out

April 24, 2017

Former White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Monday there are some "clear red lines" that would cause former President Obama to speak out publicly against federal action.

In an interview, MSNBC's Chris Jansing asked Earnest about the former president's promise to weigh in publicly if he senses a threat to America's "core values." Obama spoke out in support of protests against President Trump's controversial temporary immigration ban proposal at the end of January.

"What do you think," Jansing asked Earnest, "would motivate him to get back involved in the public debate in a way that he's not willing to do right now?"

Earnest made clear that Obama would not be interested in responding to every little thing.

"After the last eight years, the president doesn't relish the prospect of getting back into the day-to-day fights that characterize governing the United States of America in the 21st century," Earnest said. "He spent the last eight years doing it; it's somebody else's turn to do that now."

"What would motivate President Obama to reengage in the political debate," Earnest continued, "is if we saw the federal government start to cross some clear red lines in terms of long-observed norms and values that frankly I think that we started to take for granted."

Earnest's use of the term "red lines" was noteworthy given Obama's infamous history with the phrase. Obama pledged in 2012 that Syria using chemical weapons would cross a "red line" with him, but he backed off taking unilateral military action when the Assad regime did so in 2013.

Earnest offered as an example the use of information collected about DREAMers in order to round up and deport said immigrants. Earnest said that such an action would constitute a broken promise to DREAMers, who were told under the Obama administration that any information collected about them would not be used for enforcement purposes.

"It also would be a pretty stark departure from the values of this country," Earnest said. "That signal that people who want an opportunity to succeed here and are willing to follow the law and make a substantial positive contribution to their community should be given a chance."