TIME White House

President Obama Says There Is ‘No Excuse’ for Ferguson Violence

US President Barack Obama speaks on ferguson and immigration reform at the Copernicus Community Center on Nov. 25, 2014 in Chicago.
US President Barack Obama speaks on ferguson and immigration reform at the Copernicus Community Center on Nov. 25, 2014 in Chicago. Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images

Riots, looting and violent protests roiled the area Monday evening

President Barack Obama condemned the violence in Ferguson, Mo., on Tuesday, after a night of protests in the area turned violent following the announcement that a grand jury chose not to indict police officer Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death.

Speaking in Chicago before a scheduled speech on immigration reform, the President acknowledged that many Americans are upset by the decision but appealed for calm.

“Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk, that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it,” Obama said. “Those are criminal acts. People should be prosecuted if they commit criminal acts.”

He continued, “nothing of significance, nothing of benefit results from destructive acts.”

Obama also said he is deploying Attorney General Eric Holder to lead regional discussions to address the roots of the crisis in Ferguson: Distrust between law enforcement officials and the local community. He called on those dissatisfied by the grand jury’s decision not to take the easy route of violence, but rather to come together to improve their communities.

“To those that think that what happened in Ferguson is an excuse for violence, I do not have any sympathy for them,” he added. “I have no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities.”

Obama was briefed by Holder on Monday evening’s violence in Ferguson, and members of his administration have been working to diffuse tensions. White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One that the President’s senior advisor Valerie Jarett spoke with Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon on Monday night and Tuesday morning to receive updates from the ground. Broderick Johnson, the White House cabinet secretary, convened a call with the Missouri delegation Monday evening.

Also on Monday, White House staffers held a call with mayors across the country, while Jarrett and Holder spoke with civil rights leaders. Schultz added that Obama would consider visiting the city once “things calm down a little bit.”

TIME Crime

The Key Moment in the Ferguson Grand Jury Testimony

The story that drove the riots in Ferguson last August was this: an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, 18, had been killed in cold blood by a white police officer, Darren Wilson, on Aug. 9.

Grand jury proceedings made public Monday evening by the St. Louis County prosecutor tell a different story. The witness testimony and physical evidence all show there was a confrontation through the window of Wilson’s Chevy Tahoe that day. The fight resulted in shots fired from Wilson’s sidearm that wounded Brown.

But the new clarity has already given way to another confusion: what happened next? After Brown was shot he staggered away from the police vehicle and Wilson got out of the car. From there, witness testimony becomes contradictory. The forensic evidence shows, and most eyewitness accounts agree, that the final shots were fired after Brown turned to Wilson and began moving back towards him. But there is little consensus over Brown’s intentions as he did, and whether his hands were raised in a threatening manner or attempting to show surrender.

Here are some of the key witness accounts of what happened when the two faced off for a second, deadly encounter:

Unidentified witness:

“I saw him in the middle of the street on his knees with hands up. Officer came up to him and shot him in his head and he fell.”

Unidentified witness:

“He was walking at a moderate pace to where he has his arms up, he was walking like this at a moderate pace. There was no running whatsoever.”

Unidentified witness

Q: Was his arms up the way you showed us when he was being shot?

A: Yes, about, like his palms were out facing forward, they were about at his ears, I’d say, like shoulders, about like that.

Q: Okay. What did that mean to you to have your arms like that?

A: That meant surrender, that meant take me to jail.

Unidentified witness

A: …The officer had ran, he was running after him. He had stopped, I heard him say get down about two or three times and he kind of veered off to the side a little bit, but he still was aiming his gun at the guy, at Michael. And he after, he held his gun out at him, he was aiming the gun at him, he was telling him to get down. And like I said, Michael was shuffling back and forth like he was confused and then he started running and that’s when I started hearing him shoot.

Q: While he was running toward the officer?

A: Kind of towards the officer. I couldn’t be sure if he was running exactly towards the officer or just trying to run past him.

Q: But he was running in the officer’s direction?

A: He was running pretty much our direction. The officer was pretty much between us and Michael.

Q: And the officer was saying stop or get down?

A: Get down.

Q: And could you hear Michael say anything?

A: I didn’t hear him say anything. He was trying to run. He was running and he had his hands down in like a running stance.

Q: Look like he was charging at the officer?

A: I couldn’t be sure if he was trying to charge the officer or run past him.

Wilson’s testimony:

His hand was in a fist at his side, this one is in his waistband under his shirt, and he was like this. Just coming straight at me like he was going to run right through me. And when he gets about that 8 to 10 feet away, I look down, I remember looking at my sites [sic] and firing, all I see is his head and that’s what I shot. I don’t know how many, I know at least once because I saw the last one go into him. And then when it went into him, the demeanor on his face went blank, the aggression was gone, it was gone, I mean, I knew he stopped, the threat was stopped.

Ultimately it was the grand jury’s responsibility, after weeks of testimony and days of deliberation, to pass judgment on the credibility of the witnesses and to weigh their words against the physical evidence to determine whether there was probable cause to issue an indictment.

Before they made that judgment, the jurors were given the following instructions from St. Louis County prosecutor Kathi Alizadeh, who set a high bar for jurors to return a true bill against Wilson. Alizadeh compared it to “proving a negative”:

“You must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not act in lawful self-defense and you must find probable cause to believe that Darren Wilson did not use lawful force in making an arrest,” Alizadeh instructed the grand jurors. “And only if you find those things, which is kind of like finding a negative, you cannot return an indictment on anything or true bill unless you find both of those things.”

TIME Crime

Read Darren Wilson’s Testimony to the Grand Jury

Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson St. Louis County

See what he said about his fatal encounter with Michael Brown

Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson described his side of his fatal altercation with unarmed teen Michael Brown in testimony to a St. Louis County grand jury last month.

The St. Louis County Prosecutor’s office released the transcripts late Monday after the grand jury decided against indicting Wilson in Brown’s death.

In his testimony, Wilson described stopping Brown on the street and alleged that Brown attacked him as he tried to exit his patrol car to confront Brown, who he believed matched the suspect in a theft. Wilson claims Brown repeatedly swung at him, and maintained “total control” of his gun once he unholstered it to defend himself.

Wilson managed to grasp Brown’s arm, he told the grand jury, saying, “When I grabbed him, the only way I can describe it is I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.”

He described two shots ringing out from his patrol car during the altercation, claiming he would be shot by his own gun during the struggle. Wilson goes on to claim that he chased Brown down the street, and fired the fatal shots once Brown turned and moved back toward him.

Read Wilson’s testimony below:

TIME White House

Obama on Ferguson Grand-Jury Decision: ‘This Is an Issue for America’

President Obama made a statement after the grand-jury announcement Monday evening

President Barack Obama appealed for calm Monday evening after the announcement that a grand jury declined to indict the Ferguson, Mo., police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown after an encounter in August.

Speaking from the White House about an hour after St. Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced the long-awaited decision involving the officer, Darren Wilson, Obama called for the incident to spark a larger discussion of race issues in America.

“We need to recognize that the situation in Ferguson speaks to the broader challenges we still face as a nation,” he said. “In too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color.”

Obama urged all sides to show restraint, keeping in line with the Brown family’s wishes. “There’s inevitably going to be some negative reaction, and it’ll make for good TV,” he said, while also asking law-enforcement officials to “show care and restraint” in dealing with peaceful protesters in Ferguson and around the country.

As he spoke, television news networks aired split-screen video footage of police deploying tear gas and smoke grenades at demonstrators, a small number of whom turned violent soon after the decision was announced.

Obama cautiously avoided wading into the substance of the grand jury’s decision. “We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make,” he said. “It’s an outcome that, either way, was going to be a subject of intense disagreement not only in Ferguson, but across America.”

Brown’s death and the subsequent protests in the St. Louis suburb captured national attention this summer, prompting multiple presidential statements that requested calm. At the time, Obama also ordered the Department of Justice to carry out an independent investigation of the incident, which is ongoing.

The President has historically tiptoed around discussing the issue of race, but has gradually become more vocal since the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012. That includes launching the My Brother’s Keeper initiative last year to help young men of color. He has also deployed outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder to work with law enforcement in Ferguson and elsewhere to help ease tensions.

Obama held out the possibility in his remarks that he might visit Ferguson, but no trip is expected until the situation in the city calms down.

TIME 2016 Election

Democrats Narrow Convention to Columbus, New York or Philadelphia

US Campaign 2012
President Barack Obama onstage at the Democratic National Convention at the Time Warner Cable Arena on September 6, 2012 in Charlotte, N.C. Charles Ommanney—Getty Images

Also considering moving it earlier in the summer

The Democratic National Committee announced Monday afternoon that it had narrowed the list of finalist cities to host the 2016 Democratic National Convention to Columbus, New York and Philadelphia.

The announcement comes after a round of visits by DNC technical advisors to five semifinalist cities, including Birmingham and Phoenix. Cleveland was initially a semifinalist, but was removed from contention once it was selected earlier this year to host the 2016 Republican National Convention.

“We’re thrilled to move to the next step of the selection process to determine where Democrats will come together to nominate the 45th President of the United States,” said DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “We are fortunate to have such a diverse and vibrant group of cities interested in hosting this special event and we thank Phoenix and Birmingham for showcasing their special communities.”

The Democratic National Committee is considering three dates for the convention: the weeks of July 18, July 25, and August 22, 2016. The date and location will be finalized early next year, but indicate that Democrats are considering following Republicans in moving the convention earlier in the summer, freeing up general election dollars earlier for their eventual nominee. The Republican National Convention will start either on June 27 or July 18, 2016, according to the Republican National Committee, with a final determination expected in the new year.

Central to the DNC’s thinking as it further narrows the list will be the host city’s ability to come up with the tens of millions necessary to fund a convention, particularly now that Congress has withdrawn public financing of the quadrennial Republican and Democratic gatherings. The 2012 DNC convention in Charlotte ended up deeply in debt, with Duke Energy forgiving a $10 million loan to the host committee, despite President Barack Obama’s pledge that his convention would not accept corporate donations.

TIME Military

3 People Who Could Replace Chuck Hagel

All have been considered before and passed over

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced his resignation after less than two-years on the job Monday after President Barack Obama asked for him to step-aside amid repeated disagreements and missteps.

According to administration officials, three contenders are at the top of the short-list to replace Hagel: Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, and former DOD officials Michele Flournoy and Ashton Carter. All have been considered and passed over for the post before.

A senior administration official said Obama would name a replacement to Hagel “in short order,” with Hagel remaining in the post until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Current and former officials said Obama will look both for someone who can avoid the communications troubles that plagued Hagel, as well as who is more adept to manage newly emerging threats like the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria.

Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska who broke with his party on foreign policy issues, faced tough opposition from hawkish Republicans and some Democrats during his confirmation battle over concerns that he wasn’t supportive enough of Israel, and that was with a Democrat-controlled Senate.

Hagel’s performance during his confirmation hearing was resoundingly panned. Republicans will control the Senate beginning in January when the new Congress is sworn-in, further complicating Obama’s decision. With the extension of the Iran nuclear talks, one Republican Senate aide said the next Pentagon chief’s confirmation hearings are likely to become a proxy for concerns in both parties about the Iran negotiations.

A look at the short-list:

Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed: Like Hagel, Reed was one of 23 Senators to vote against the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. A longtime member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he has been considered for the Secretary of Defense position by Obama before, but has repeatedly stated he would rather be a Senator. With the retirement of Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, Reed is now in line to be the Ranking Member of the committee when the GOP-controlled Senate is sworn in next year. As a senator, he would likely face a smoother confirmation process than the others on the short-list, that is if he wants the job. A Reed spokesman said Monday morning that he’s not interested.

Michele Flournoy: The former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the number-three position at the Department of Defense, Flournoy was a top aide to former Secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta before leaving the Pentagon in February 2012. Widely respected on both sides of the aisle, she is a founder of the center-left Center for a New American Security. Flournoy would be the first woman in the post, a historic element that some Obama administration insiders say would be appealing to the president. She also comes as a veteran of both Obama campaigns, and maintains close ties to the White House.

Ashton Carter: The former Deputy Secretary of Defense from October 2011 to December 2013, Carter was responsible for the day-to-day management of the department. During the Clinton administration he served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy. Carter’s supervision of the department during a period of budget cuts earned accolades from both sides of the aisle when he stepped down last year. Like Flournoy, he was on the short-list of contenders to replace Panetta in 2012.

TIME Military

Pentagon Chief Chuck Hagel Is Stepping Down

Will stay in post until successor confirmed

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is resigning from the post after less than two years on the job, President Barack Obama announced Monday.

Obama said he was “reluctant” to see Hagel leave, though an Administration official told TIME that Obama had asked Hagel to resign. Obama said Hagel concluded it’s an “appropriate time for him to complete his service.” He will stay in his post until a successor is confirmed by the Senate.

“Over nearly two years Chuck has been an exemplary Defense Secretary,” Obama said during an appearance with Hagel at the White House. “Chuck is and has been a great friend of mine, since I was a green-behind-the-ears freshman senator,” Obama added.

Hagel called being Secretary of Defense “the greatest privilege of my life.”

MORE: Why Chuck Hagel resigned

An Obama friend dating back to their time opposing the Iraq War in the Senate, Hagel had difficulty interacting with members of Obama’s team and has been rumored to be on his way out for weeks.

In an interview with PBS last week, Hagel sidestepped questions about whether he would remain in the job. “First of all, I serve at the pleasure of the President,” Hagel said. “I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity I’ve had the last two years to work every day for the country and for the men and women who serve this country. I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job. It’s not unusual by the way, to change teams at different times.

“I didn’t say I expect him to change,” he added under continued questioning. “What I’m saying is it wouldn’t be unusual to do that first of all historically. But second, I’ve got to stay focused on my job… and I do. And I am very fortunate that I have some of the best people in the world to work with and whatever the President decides, he’s the President, he makes those decisions.”

Asked if he still believed he had Obama’s confidence, Hagel said: “Well, I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t. But you’d have to ask him that. I mean I see him all the time.”

MORE: 3 people who could replace Chuck Hagel

Hagel, the first enlisted man to rise to become Secretary of Defense, was seen by Obama aides as having difficulty staying on message and communicating the Administration’s positions clearly. Over the summer, White House aides were forced to walk back comments he made about the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), in which he called the militant group an “imminent threat to every interest we have.”

One former Obama official was skeptical that dropping Hagel will improve the Administration’s foreign policy position. “Not sure what kind of Kool-Aid they are drinking if they think that getting rid of Hagel—and not the national security advisor who’s flailing to handle the [ISIS] problem—is going to make things better,” the former official told TIME.

Hagel faced a tough confirmation battle in 2012 and early 2013 when Democrats controlled the Senate.

“The bottom line is that he wasn’t set up for success by his team when he arrived at the Pentagon,” the former official added. “After a particularly tough confirmation process, instead of pushing the new Secretary to own the job inside the Beltway and in the public eye, his team took the opposite approach. Their goal was just not to make waves.”

His replacement will have to find support from the GOP-controlled Senate in the new Congress next year.

“Secretary Chuck Hagel honorably served the United States as a combat soldier, a U.S. Senator, and as Secretary of Defense,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will become Majority Leader when Republicans take over the Senate next year, said in a statement. “We appreciate his service to the nation.

“It’s important to remember that Secretary Hagel’s departure comes at a moment of great peril for our country,” McConnell added. “His successor will confront the daunting challenges of: modernizing our conventional military forces to meet the challenges posed by Russia and China; restructuring the force after more than a decade of counterinsurgency warfare; maintaining our dominance in the air and at sea; investing in the next generation of weapons systems to preserve our nuclear triad; and combatting terror whether from Al Qaeda, associate forces, [ISIS], or other groups seeking to exploit the ungoverned spaces created by revolt and unrest. All of these challenges come at a time when the all-volunteer force faces a shortage of resources and investment. It is imperative that the next Secretary of Defense possess a sharp grasp of strategy, a demonstrated ability to think creatively, and the willingness and ability to work with Congress. And it is critical that the President consider these qualifications and challenges as he considers such an important nomination.”

Two former Department of Defense officials—Michele Flournoy, the former under secretary of defense and Ashton Carter, the former deputy secretary of defense—were runners-up to Hagel for the post when former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta stepped down in 2012, and are seen as top contenders to be Hagel’s successor, according to administration officials, along with Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, who is in line to be Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee.

“With the United States facing threats to our national security around the world, it is my hope that Senate Republicans will work with Democrats to give swift and fair consideration to President Obama’s next nominee to this critical post,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who will become Minority Leader next year, said in a statement lauding Hagel’s service.

Read next: Hagel Retreats from Pentagon Under Fire

TIME Election 2016

Obama: Voters Want ‘New Car Smell’ in 2016

US President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama at the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21 2014. Michael Nelson—EPA

The President said he himself has gotten a few 'dings' while serving two terms

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that voters will be looking for a “fresh start” as they go to the polls in 2016 to select his successor.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want—you know, that new car smell. You know, their own—they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told ABC This Week’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Friday in Las Vegas, a day after Obama announced his executive action on immigration.

The president acknowledged he’s accumulated “some dings,” while in office, adding he’s “very interested” in making sure a Democrat is his successor. “So I’m gonna do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that—whoever the nominee is is successful,” he said.

Obama spoke positively of likely Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose age and longevity in Washington has already become a target of likely Republican challengers, and against whom he ran in 2008 as the ‘new car smell’ candidate. He called Clinton a friend and told Stephanopoulos they still speak regularly, adding, “I think she and—and a number of other possible Democratic candidates, would be terrific presidents.”

But Obama, who was largely absent on the campaign trail for Democrats in 2014 due to his low poll numbers, acknowledged his successor would likely want him to stay away in 2016. “You know, they’re– they’re probably not gonna be looking at me to campaign too much,” he said, predicting “folks will be ready to see me—go off to the next thing.”

TIME Immigration

Obama Touts Immigration Actions in Las Vegas

Raucuous crowd in Las Vegas cheers "Si, se puede"

President Barack Obama took his immigration actions on the road Friday, trumpeting in a speech in Las Vegas his announcement that his administration would defer deportations for roughly five million illegal immigrants.

Addressing a raucous audience at a local high school a day after laying out his announcement in a primetime address to the nation, Obama rejected the complaints of congressional Republicans that his actions were unlawful or an overreach, saying he had given Congress plenty of time to take action and “we can’t afford” to wait any longer.

“I told [Speaker of the House] John Boehner I would—yeah, I’ll wash your car, I’ll walk your dog—whatever you need to do, just call the bill,” Obama said, complaining that House Republicans refused to take up the Senate-passed bipartisan immigration reform bill. “That’s how democracy is supposed to work. And if the votes hadn’t been there, then we would have had to start over, but at least give it a shot. And he didn’t do it. And the fact that a year-and-a-half has gone by means that time has been wasted—and during that time families have been separated, and during that time businesses have been harmed.”

Obama said lawmakers who question his authority to act have a simple recourse: passing a comprehensive immigration bill for his signature. “When members of Congress question my authority to make our immigration system work better, I have a simple answer: pass a bill,” Obama said as the audience cheered and chanted “Si, se puede.” “Pass a bill. Pass a bill. Nobody is stopping them from passing a bill.”

Before deplaning Air Force One, Obama signed two memoranda to develop policies to better help integrate immigrants into the United States and improve the immigration visa system. Separately, the Department of Homeland Security released memoranda on efforts to improve border security, end the controversial “Secure Communities” program and employ prosecutorial discretion to allowing many illegal immigrants to remain in the United States. “Under this revised policy, those who entered illegally prior to January 1, 2014, who never disobeyed a prior order of removal, and were never convicted of a serious offense, will not be priorities for removal,” the department said of a policy that will take effect on Jan. 5, 2015. DHS also announced that it would begin accepting applications within the next 180 day for the expanded deferred action program, which would allow millions of immigrants to remain in the U.S. legally for three years on a renewable basis.

Obama said he understood the worries of those concerned about the impact of immigration on their jobs and the “fabric of our country,” but said he also heard the concerns of the so-called Dreamers who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children and of the American citizens with family members who immigrated illegally to be near them.

“We’re not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American dream,” Obama said. “We’re a nation that finds a way to welcome them. We make them earn it, but we welcome them in as fellow human beings, fellow children of God, and we harness their talents to make the future brighter for everybody.”

The executive actions put pressure on Republicans who have strenuously objected to Obama’s process, while the substance of his announcements places the GOP in a bind with an ever-more-diverse presidential electorate.

TIME Immigration

Hillary Clinton Backs President Obama’s Immigration Announcement

Hillary Clinton departs St. Ignatius Loyola church following fashion designer de la Renta's memorial service in the Manhattan borough of New York
Former first lady Hillary Clinton departs St. Ignatius Loyola church following fashion designer Oscar de la Renta's memorial service in the Manhattan borough of New York November 3, 2014. © Carlo Allegri / Reuters—REUTERS

"I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system"

As Republicans fume at President Barack Obama’s immigration executive actions Thursday, his Democratic potential successor is applauding the decision.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her support for Obama’s announcement in a tweet and a statement Thursday evening. Her statement leaves no distance between herself and the president on an issue that remains politically polarizing.

Clinton, like Obama, was the subject of protests from immigration activists in the run-up to November’s midterm elections.

Her full statement:

I support the President’s decision to begin fixing our broken immigration system and focus finite resources on deporting felons rather than families. I was hopeful that the bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would spur the House of Representatives to act, but they refused even to advance an alternative. Their abdication of responsibility paved the way for this executive action, which follows established precedent from Presidents of both parties going back many decades. But, only Congress can finish the job by passing permanent bipartisan reform that keeps families together, treats everyone with dignity and compassion, upholds the rule of law, protects our borders and national security, and brings millions of hard-working people out of the shadows and into the formal economy so they can pay taxes and contribute to our nation’s prosperity. Our disagreements on this important issue may grow heated at times, but I am confident that people of good will and good faith can yet find common ground. We should never forget that we’re not discussing abstract statistics – we’re talking about real families with real experiences. We’re talking about parents lying awake at night afraid of a knock on the door that could tear their families apart, people who love this country, work hard, and want nothing more than a chance to contribute to the community and build better lives for themselves and their children.

President Barack Obama announced Thursday night that he was giving temporary legal status and work permits to almost five million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.

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