The White House said Wednesday it "strongly condemns" the Egyptian military's lethal decision to lay seige to sit-ins by supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and that it "strongly opposes" a return to emergency law the military has imposed.
At the first press briefing on Martha's Vineyard since President Obama arrived Saturday, deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. extends condolences to the families of those killed and injured.
"Violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy and runs directly counter to the pledges by the interim government to pursue reconciliation," Earnest said in an opening statement. "We also strongly oppose a return to a state of emergency law and call on the government to respect basic human rights, such as freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law. The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt and all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully."
The violence in Egypt threatened to pose bad optics for Obama. As Earnest parried questions about the U.S. response to events in Egypt, Obama was hitting the golf links with World Bank president Jim Kim, Comcast CEO Brian Roberts and former US Trade Rep. Ron Kirk.
Earnest said Obama was briefed this morning by National Security Advisor Susan Rice and has asked aides to keep him up to date on events. But Earnest couldn't say whether the White House got a heads up that the attacks were going to take place -- though he said there are "lines of communication" open between the adminstration and the military.
The administration has refused to call Morsi's ouster a coup -- a move that could cut off Egypt's $1.5 billion in aid -- but Earnest said it will continue to review the assistance. "The review of our assistance that is provided to Egypt is something that we do on a regular basis, and that's something that we are continuing to do," he said.
He wouldn't address any "specific conversations," but said the US has been in "regular touch at a variety of levels with the leaders of Egypt."