CAMP DAVID — The White House will look into reimbursing local law enforcement for costs associated with President Barack Obama’s decision in March to move the G-8 summit to Camp David from Chicago, where it was originally planned, an administration official said Saturday.
That acknowledgment from Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, came as more than 400 activists converged on downtown Thurmont on Saturday afternoon, less than 10 miles away from where Obama and other G-8 leaders tackled some of the world’s most pressing issues, including shoring up the global economy, sanctions against Iran and unrest in Syria.
County and Thurmont law enforcement officials have said they were keeping a tally of the costs of staffing and planning for security outside Catoctin Mountain Park, which closed for the G-8, as they monitored social networks and other websites in the run-up to the summit to estimate how big protests may become. U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett sent a letter to the White House last week asking Obama to reimburse the county for its cost after Frederick County Sheriff Chuck Jenkins said it was unfair that Chicago, which will host the NATO summit beginning today, was receiving about $40 million in federal assistance.
“I honestly don’t know the cost,” Rhodes said during a briefing Saturday, adding that he had not seen the letter. “We can look into it. The State Department pays for a lot of this. I don’t know what the reimbursements are with (the Department of Homeland Security) and (the State Department) in terms of what local law enforcement does, so we can look into that.”
Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin weighed in on the cost of the summit last week. Cardin told The Frederick News-Post that he had asked the Department of Homeland Security for assistance.
Moving the summit to Camp David allowed leaders to interact more intimately with one another, and Saturday’s nice weather provided an idyllic setting for less formal, unscripted meetings across the well-manicured compound. The occasion marked the first time that all the G-8 leaders met in one place, with France’s new president, Francois Hollande, having been inaugurated less than a week earlier. Leaders also celebrated an early birthday for Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, whose birthday is today.
Obama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the back porch of Laurel Lodge, where the day’s sessions took place. The president also worked out Saturday morning with British Prime Minister David Cameron, with each using a treadmill though “no information on the speed of those treadmills” was available, Rhodes said.
But much of the day’s heavy lifting appeared to take place during the morning sessions, which covered the global economy.
Leaders affirmed their commitment to keep Greece in the eurozone while maintaining its commitments, while also spurring growth and creating stability and jobs, Obama said from the lawn at Camp David after the G-8 ended Saturday night. He was to meet with Merkel in a closed-door session before heading to Chicago for the NATO summit.
“A stable, growing European economy is in everybody’s interest, including America’s,” Obama said.
Obama, citing job growth, recognized that the U.S. still “has a lot to do” to bring its economy on track, adding, “Europe’s situation is more complicated.”
“They’ve got a political and economic crisis facing Greece, slow growth and very high unemployment in several countries,” Obama said. “What’s more, when they want to decide on a way to come forward, there are 17 more countries in the eurozone that need to come to an agreement. We recognize that and we respect that. The direction that the debate has taken recently should give us confidence.”
While Obama spent a little more than half of his seven-minute statement after the summit on the global economy, he also announced a new U.S.-led coalition to address climate change and said G-8 leaders agreed they must closely monitor international oil markets as Iran faces oil export sanctions for its failure to back off enriching uranium.
Earlier Saturday, Obama acknowledged Iran’s right to a “peaceful” nuclear program but added that the county’s failure to convince the world that it is not weaponizing it was of “grave concern.”
“Together, we stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take action to ensure that the market remains fully and timely supplied,” Obama said.
As expected, Obama on Saturday also talked about an alliance on food security with African leaders and the private sector to lift 50 million people out of poverty.
Saturday’s discussions also took place as blind Chinese civil rights activist Chen Guangcheng was landing in the United States with his wife and two sons to begin study at New York University. The house arrest of the dissident had strained U.S. and Chinese relations.
The State Department took the lead in bringing Chen to the U.S. with help from the White House, Rhodes said.
“We welcome this development and the fact that he’ll be able to pursue a course of study here upon his arrival,” Rhodes said.
Obama said the meeting at the presidential retreat strengthened consensus for economic progress among the G-8 leaders.
“Leaders here understand the stakes,” Obama said. “They know the magnitude of the choices they have to make and the enormous political, economic and social costs if they don’t.”