“Mr. Graham is not right on this issue, although I’m sure it generated some headlines,” Obama said.
Obama said the FBI investigated and interviewed one of the suspects in the case after Russian intelligence services alerted U.S. intelligence, but it found no signs that he was engaging in extremist activity.
He said self-radicalized individuals pose an increasingly dangerous threat and he’s pushed his counterterrorism team for months to be on the alert. “But all of this has to be done in the context of our laws, due process,” he said.
He sidestepped a question about the attacks in Libya, saying he wasn’t familiar with House Oversight and Government Reform Committee charges that survivors of the Benghazi attack have been blocked by the State Department from coming forward to give their stories.
“What I’ve been very clear about from the start is that our job with respect to Benghazi has been to find out exactly what happened, to make sure that U.S. embassies, not just in the Middle East, but around the world are safe and secure, and to bring those who carried it out to justice,” Obama said.
Obama, who has said previously that the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be a “game changer,” said Tuesday that though the U.S. has found that chemical weapons had been used, there are still too many unanswered questions to take further action..
"When I am making decisions about America’s national security and the potential for taking additional action in response to chemical weapon use, I’ve got to make sure I’ve got the facts,” he said.
Graham and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., accused Obama of further inflaming the situation by not acting more forcefully.
“The credibility of the United States is on the line, not just with Syria, but with Iran, North Korea, and all of our enemies and friends who are watching closely to see whether the president backs up his words with action,” they said in a statement.
On immigration, Obama said he’s impressed with the Senate version and is staying open-minded about a reportedly more conservative House version that he hasn’t yet seen. But, he said, he won’t support legislation that doesn’t include a path to citizenship for the 11 million or so who are undocumented.
Obama took questions from just six reporters and ignored all but one question shouted to him. He turned back to the lectern to deliver his reaction to Jason Collins, the NBA center whom he called to congratulate Monday for becoming the first athlete in a major American team sport to publicly acknowledge he’s gay.
“I told him I couldn’t be prouder,” Obama said, calling Collins a role model for gay and lesbian youth. “Given the importance of sports in our society for an individual who’s excelled at the highest levels in one of the major sports to go ahead and say, ‘This is who I am. I’m proud of it. I’m still a great competitor. I’m still seven foot tall and can bang with Shaq and deliver a hard foul.’”
Anita Kumar of the Washington Bureau contributed.