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Wednesday, May 25, 2016 10:24 p.m.

Congress votes against D.C. budget autonomy

Congress approved a bill that rejects budget autonomy in D.C., The Hill reported Wednesday.

The approved bill repeals the D.C. Budget Autonomy Act, which would have allowed city officials to control how locally raised funds are spent. More than 80 percent of District residents approved of budget autonomy in a 2013 referendum, and a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the budget autonomy act in March.

The new bill, supported by Republicans and two Democratic members of the House of Representatives Wednesday, blocks D.C. from being able to spend funds on things like abortion clinics or regulating marijuana without Congressional approval. Republicans like Rep. Mark Meadows, R-NC, the chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee, argued that the budget autonomy measure violates the 1973 Home Rule Act, which established Congressional oversight for D.C.’s funds.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.’s non-voting representative in Congress, called the legislation “undemocratic” during the House meeting.

“It is profoundly undemocratic for any member of Congress in the 21st century to declare that he has authority over any jurisdiction except his own,” Norton said, according to The Hill.

The president’s advisers will recommend that U.S. President Barack Obama veto the Republican bill, according to a statement from the White House. The president “strongly supports” D.C. budget autonomy, according to the statement.

“Subjecting the District to the lengthy and uncertain congressional appropriations process for its use of local tax collections imposes both operational and financial hardships on the District, burdens not borne by any other local government in the country,” according to the statement.

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Monday, March 28, 2016 8:17 p.m.

2016 White House Easter Egg Roll

President Barack Obama and his family hosted the 138th White House Easter Egg Roll at the White House Monday.

With the theme “Let’s celebrate,” the event attracted thousands of families to the South Lawn for a morning filled with musical performances, games and eggs. Celebrities such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Idina Menzel were present, and Obama even joined Shaquille O’Neal on the basketball court.

We attended the Egg Roll to capture the Obamas’ final Easter in the White House.

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Obama, center, and First Lady Michelle Obama, second from right, and their dogs Sunny and Bo start the first official egg roll game of the year. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

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Obama welcomes a young guest at the beginning of the event. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

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Thousands of children and their families won tickets through a lottery to participate in the event, which was held on the South Lawn of the White House. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

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Jeremiah, age seven, from Maryland showed off his Cookie Monster tattoo while waiting in line to compete in the egg roll. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

First Lady Michelle Obama opens the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll alongside President Obama and the Easter Bunny. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

First Lady Michelle Obama, right, opened the 2016 White House Easter Egg Roll alongside President Obama, center, and the Easter Bunny. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

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Obama proudly announced that he had just been on the White House basketball court with White House Easter Egg Roll guest Shaquille O’Neal. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

 

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Eight month-old Autumn from Baltimore visited the White House for the first time with her family for the egg roll. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

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One of the seven Iranians President Barack Obama offered clemency to this week is an alumnus.

Nader Modanlo received science and engineering degrees from the University, CBS News reported. Mondalo, a naturalized citizen who lives in Potomac, Md. and was born in Iran, was sentenced to eight years in prison in 2013 for sanctions violations.

Obama pardoned the seven Iranians as part of a larger prisoner swap that led to the release of four Americans from Iranian prisons. Six of the are dual US-Iranian citizens and were imprisoned or awaiting trial in the United States, the Washington Post reported.

Prosecutors said the 55-year-old Modanlo used his aerospace expertise and connections with Russia to help Iran launch a satellite in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iran trade embargo, the Washington Post reported. He was also convicted of money-laundering and obstruction of bankruptcy proceedings.

In court, Modanlo said he managed space and science programs for private companies, the Department of Defense and NASA.

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Former Vice President Walter Mondale and Vice President Joe Biden talked about their  experiences on the job. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Former Vice President Walter Mondale and Vice President Joe Biden talked about their experiences on the job. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Vice President Joe Biden helped to celebrate the legacy of a former vice president – and gave some tips to the next one – at an event on campus Tuesday morning.

Former Vice President Walter Mondale is an instructor at the University of Minnesota, which hosted several events in a series called “Walter Mondale: Living Legacy” this year. This event, held in the Jack Morton Auditorium, concluded the series.

University President Steven Knapp was joined by Eric Schwartz, the dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and Kathryn Newcomer, the director of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, to welcome about 200 attendees to the discussion between Biden and Mondale, which was moderated by Richard Moe, Mondale’s former chief of staff.

Here are three takeaways from the discussion:

1. Disagree privately, agree publicly

When President Barack Obama asked Biden to be his running mate, Biden said he declined at first. But Biden said his decision changed when Obama agreed to one condition.

“I said, ‘I want to to be level with you and argue with you privately,'” Biden said. “‘I want to be the last person in the room on major issues.'”

Biden said arguments are “a healthy part of the relationship” between himself and Obama. He said they’ve had “very candid” conversations in the Oval Office, but part of their success as a team is their mutual respect for one another.

But at the end of a conversation, the pair always agrees on how the administration officially feels about an issue, Biden said.

2. Speak as one unit

Mondale and Biden agreed that it is the vice president’s job to be not only an adviser to the president, but to be his or her official voice in meetings.

That singular message, Biden said, is critical to the vice president’s capacity to speak for the president on Capitol Hill and in conversations with world leaders.

“I told President Carter, ‘they’ve got to believe they’re talking to you,'” Mondale said. “We’ve got a stake in making that point.”

Biden said the most difficult part of transitioning into his role as vice president was having a boss. He said as a lawyer and as a senator, he always spoke for himself.

“But I had to realize everything I said would be attributed to the President,” he said. “It really matters when people know you are speaking for the president and you have his full confidence.”

3. Location, location, location

Mondale was the first vice president to have an office in the West Wing. Biden said having an office adjacent to the president in the White House is key to their day-to-day operations.

Mondale and Carter were also the first team to eat lunch together once a week.

Biden said that precedent of proximity to the president helped to shape a standard for the strong ties he and Obama have.

“Depending on the season, I attend every meeting with the president,” he said. “And at least half of Barack’s staff are my former staff members.”

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Katie Causey | Photo Editor

D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

City leaders and experts met at GW Law School on Tuesday afternoon to talk through White House recommendations on community policing.

The roundtable, which included Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier and was led by Ward 5 Council member Kenyan McDuffie, reviewed recommendations from a White House task force, and covered topics ranging from police training and assessment to militarization and the use of body cameras, which MPD piloted in October. Analysis of policing strategies has been an ongoing national conversation following police brutality in cities like Ferguson, Mo. and New York City.

Roger Fairfax, an associate dean at the law school, also participated in the round table. The group reviewed more than 150 recommendations about modernizing policing from a President Barack Obama-appointed White House task force, some of which Obama mentioned in a speech to the N.A.A.C.P. on Tuesday.

Lanier, who is in her eighth year as police chief, said that in order for the 18,000 police departments around the country to reform, there would have to be a shift not just in programs, but in philosophy.

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan Duffie led a roundtable about policing strategies at GW on Tuesday Katie Causey | Photo Editor

Ward 5 Council member Kenyan Duffie led a roundtable about policing strategies at GW on Tuesday. Katie Causey | Photo Editor

“Really, the agency is responsible for a philosophy and a policy,” Lanier said. “[That] means that citizens of the community feel like they matter, that police officers are being fair [and] that information that’s important to public safety is made public.”

Lanier cited opportunities for police officers to show community members that they are engaged and accountable, like officers’ following up with phone calls after a crime is reported. She also said the department could work on acknowledging community members’ involvement in solving or reporting crimes. MPD officers also often attend community meetings in Foggy Bottom and other neighborhoods across the city to give crime updates and field residents’ concerns.

In a push to be more transparent, departments can also explain what’s happening behind the scenes without divulging classified details of crimes being investigated, she said.

“We’re kind of guilty in our profession of saying, ‘That’s under investigation’ or ‘I can’t discuss that.’ Some of those things are protected under grand jury rules,” she said. “But there’s always something we can say. If crimes are being committed and you’re not very open with public disclosure…the community thinks you’re hiding something,” she said.

Delroy Burton, chairman of the D.C. Police Union and other panelists, like Michael Tobin, the executive director of the Office of Police Complaints, agreed that reforms to make police officers more like guardians and less like warriors – an analogy used more than once during the meeting – would require an overhaul in training and more money.

Overall, the D.C. Police Department received high praise from the panelists, most of whom were D.C. natives, for its stringent analysis of effective crime reduction, its efforts to diversify the department and Lanier’s leadership.

Laura Hankins, a public defender, said she became “a fan” of Lanier after she heard the chief admit that the a police department strategy “didn’t work.” The admittance, Hankins said, is an example of how honesty can help bridge the gap between communities and police departments.

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Joie Chen, left, an Al Jazeera America anchor, led a panel on the rights of Asian American Pacific Islanders and women during a White House summit on the Asian American Pacific Islander community Tuesday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

Joie Chen, left, an Al Jazeera America anchor, led a panel on the rights of Asian American Pacific Islanders and women during a White House summit on the Asian American Pacific Islander community Tuesday. Desiree Halpern | Photo Editor

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Avery Anapol.

A day of artistic performances and fireside chats marked the first-ever White House-sponsored celebration of heritage and advancement in the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

Political and community leaders, business officials and artists were counted among the 1,500 people gathered at Lisner Auditorium Tuesday for the event.

The President’s Advisory Commission on Asian American Pacific Islanders has worked since 2009 to address issues like immigration, healthcare and economic development that affect the community, which is the fastest growing racial group in the country.

The opening ceremonies began with a moment of silence for the those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal and a Hawaiian chant by Kamana’opono Crabbe, chief executive officer of the Office of Hawaiian affairs. The day soon turned to lighter fare with a Hawaiian drumming performance and comedic welcoming remarks from the master of ceremonies, Parag Mehta. Mehta is the chief of staff for Vivek Murthy, the first Asian American U.S. surgeon general.

Kiran Ahuja, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, highlighted President Barack Obama’s accomplishments in the AAPI community, like Obama’s appointment of 20 AAPI federal judges during his time in office.

Former President Bill Clinton originally created the event, and President Barack Obama reestablished it with an executive order in 2009.

Joie Chen, the anchor of Al Jazeera America’s “America Tonight,” moderated a panel discussion with prominent women in the AAPI community including Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Mini Timmaraju, the national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans. They discussed the overlap of issues of both women and AAPIs with a focus on immigrants and workers’ rights.

“When you look at the world through the eyes of women, you see things much more clearly and completely,” Poo said. “The many different hats we wear offer us a unique perspective.”

The panel also discussed ways to include the voices of AAPIs in the immigration debate, which tends to focus on Hispanic populations.

“We all have to be a lot more loud about our place in the immigration debate,” Timmaraju said. “We don’t do a really good job about being on the attack when we are attacked.”

The session continued with a fireside chat moderated by Gautam Raghavan, the vice president of policy at the Gill Foundation and the former White House LGBT liaison. Gina McCarthy, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the other panelists, discussed the role of government agencies in the AAPI community.

The discussion ended with a call to action for young people to become more involved in public policy for issues they’re passionate about.

“If you want to be rich, it might not be the path for you, but if you want to have a rich life, there is no better way to go,” McCarthy said.

The morning session concluded with an artistic performance by Hawaiian musicians Paula Fuga and Kaumakaiwa Kanaka’ole.

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This post was written by Hatchet reporter Kiara Bhagwanjee.

President Barack Obama highlighted education as a key driver to improving the economy’s future success at his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Obama told members of Congress he hoped to work with them to offer free community college around the country and enhance tax credits for education and child care. Those initiatives would help ease the financial pressures on middle class families, he said.

He told the story of a  middle class family from Minnesota, who have struggled to pay off student loans, save for retirement and pay for childcare, which Obama said cost as much as a year of tuition at the University of Minnesota for their two children.

 “Helping hardworking families make ends meet. Giving them the tools they need for good-paying jobs in this new economy. Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go,” he said.

Building on an announcement earlier this month that he’d seek to create a plan for free community college, Obama said that having a higher education degree would give more Americans an edge up in competitive job openings.

He praised a job-training program established by Vice President Joe Biden that prepares community college students for higher-paying jobs in fields like coding, nursing and robotics.

“Free community college is possible,” he said. “I want to work with this Congress, to make sure Americans already burdened with student loans can reduce their monthly payments, so that student debt doesn’t derail anyone’s dreams,” he said.

Obama also urged businesses to follow in the footsteps of companies like CVS and UPS, asking that they offer more educational benefits and paid apprenticeships.

“We believed we could prepare our kids for a more competitive world,” he said. “This plan is [their] chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt,” he said.

Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who gave the official Republican Party rebuttal, didn’t directly address any of Obama’s goals for education, instead focusing on issues concerning Obamacare and the generation of jobs for Americans through international markets.

Other Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), questioned how Obama’s community college goals would be funded during and after his speech.

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Student volunteers rearrange and organize toys at A Wider Circle, a nonprofit dedicated alleviating poverty. The toys will be donated to underprivileged children as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Olivia Harding | Hatchet Photographer

Student volunteers rearrange and organize toys at A Wider Circle, a nonprofit dedicated alleviating poverty. The toys will be donated to underprivileged children as part of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Olivia Harding | Hatchet Photographer

This post was written by Hatchet Reporter Nanami Hirata.

Students spread out across the city to honor Martin Luther King Jr. with a day of service Monday – and a few worked side-by-side with members of the First Family.

President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and oldest daughter Malia volunteered at a Boys and Girls Club on Monday with three GW students who were working with Jumpstart, an organization that supports children’s literacy. Over 700 other students, faculty and staff volunteered at different sites throughout the city.

Erin Agnew, a sophomore who was at the Boys and Girls Club with the Obamas, said she spoke briefly with Obama, and that she was impressed with how humble the First Family was when it came to working closely with children at the site.

“They very genuinely worked on projects with the kids,” she said. “We were trying to include the kids as much as possible, so we talked a lot about healthy eating and the Let’s Move campaign.”

Before heading out to the service sites, students gathered in the Marvin Center to hear from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton.

She told the volunteers that they should understand the balance between the importance of community service and the full meaning behind King’s legacy as a civil rights leader.

“King wanted us to use his life to make our lives better. This means using his life to solve the unsolved issues for which he gave his life,” she said. “King’s admonition that genuine equality means income equality will haunt your generation until those most affected take on income disparity that is consuming the American Dream.”

Participants volunteered at twelve locations both on and off campus, including senior centers, child care centers and a middle school, where they helped restore buildings and worked with children and the elderly.

At A Wider Circle, a nonprofit based in Silver Spring, Md., a group of nearly 40 volunteers organized furniture, toys and dishware as part of the neighbor-to-neighbor program, which provides basic household goods and furniture to more than 4,000 families every year.

Volunteers went on a tour of the site, before loading trucks with mattresses and other household items to showrooms, where families can choose different items to bring home. Students packed up donated toys and reminisced over their childhood favorites.

Melissa Erickson, a volunteer coordinator who was at A Wider Circle, said the organization relied on the students to accomplish their goals at this time of year.

“Although we have an amazing dedicated team here. We really can’t do what we do without the help of big groups like the George Washington students, and we really appreciate the work they do for us,” she said.

In D.C.’s Knox Hill neighborhood, the University partnered with the D.C. Office of Aging and ServeDC to send volunteers to visit with the area’s elderly residents.

Bhujit Saini, a freshman site leader, said that visiting with the residents of Knox Hill – one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods – made her realize the importance of human communication.

“The people we talked to really appreciated the fact that there was someone who cared. The small things we do really matter, especially when it comes to the elderly. Giving some time of your day to other people is not only the right thing to do but is also very satisfying,” she said.

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed reporting.

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Photos by Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

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Lines for Monday’s taping of “The Colbert Report” featuring special guest President Barack Obama snaked down multiple city blocks, as students started lining up early in the morning to get good seats.

 

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University Police Department officers patrolled Kogan Plaza, where students lined up to enter Lisner Auditorium for Monday’s taping.

 

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U.S. Secret Service agents, including those from the K-9 unit, were on duty around Lisner Auditorium in preparation for Obama’s arrival.

 

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Stephen Colbert discussed the midterm elections results, the latest employment report and the ongoing health care enrollment process with Obama. He also tried to determine which numbers were in the U.S. nuclear launch codes, but Obama wouldn’t say.

 

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Obama is seen on a TV screen backstage.

 

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A teleprompter aids Colbert during his discussion with Obama.

 

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Students packed Lisner Auditorium to watch Monday’s taping of “The Colbert Report.” Their tickets were assigned out via an online lottery.

 

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Colbert shakes hands and takes photos with students after Monday’s taping of his show.

 

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Colbert waves goodbye to a crowd of students who gathered in Kogan Plaza to watch him leave after his show.

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Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday afternoon for the special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Stephen Colbert interviewed President Barack Obama in Lisner Auditorium on Monday for a special episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014.” Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

When President Barack Obama sat down with Stephen Colbert for an interview at Lisner Auditorium on Monday, Colbert took no time to grill him on key political issues – immigration, the midterm elections and why Obama chose to “burn the Constitution.”

At the taping of one of the final episodes of “The Colbert Report,” Obama held his own against a bevy of pointed questions from Colbert, whose character is a self-proclaimed conservative “pundit.”

The political satirist opened the show poking fun at GW, claiming it was named after the first U.S. president, “George University.” He also did a special take on one of his most famous segments, “Better Know a District,” this time called “Better Know a America.”

“When visiting America, don’t miss out on its signature dish, food,” Colbert said.

Obama appeared on stage in the middle of Colbert’s opening and, greeted by a standing ovation, told Colbert that he could take over for the rest of the segment. He then talked about the Affordable Care Act, this time in character as Colbert.

“This guy is so arrogant, I bet he talks about himself in the third person,” Obama said, referring to himself.

Obama used the segment to talk about enrollment numbers for health coverage while poking fun at congressional Republicans, who have tried to repeal the law multiple times since it passed in 2010.

He also talked about the ways his office has looked to get “young people” to sign up for health care.

“Young people don’t watch real news shows like this one,” Obama said.

President Barack Obama talked immigration and the midterm elections with Stephen Colbert during one of the final tapings of the Colbert Report,, held in Lisner Auditorium, on November 8, 2014. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

President Barack Obama talked immigration and the midterm elections with Stephen Colbert during one of the final tapings of the Colbert Report,, held in Lisner Auditorium, on November 8, 2014. Sam Hardgrove | Hatchet Staff Photographer

Students stood in line outside for hours before the doors opened at 1:30 p.m., braving low temperatures and wind before passing through tight security. Once inside, students took selfies with the Lisner stage in the background as they waited for the show to start.

Colbert filmed the episode, “Stephen Colbert Presents: Mr. Colbert Goes to Washington D.C. Ya Later, Legislator: Partisan is Such Sweet Sorrow: A Colbert Victory Lap, ‘014,” with an audience of nearly 1,500. While most regular episodes of “The Colbert Report” include segments with other correspondents or musical performances, Obama was Colbert’s only guest for this special.

During the interview, Colbert pushed Obama on the midterm elections, after Democrats lost 12 seats in the House of Representatives and their majority in the Senate.

“The election didn’t go as I would have liked,” Obama said.

Colbert then brought up the latest employment report, which found that over 320,000 jobs had been created in the past month.

“Why didn’t you fix the economy before the midterms?” Colbert asked.

Obama responded that even though there have been 57 months of job growth in a row, individual wages haven’t kept pace with the uptick in jobs. That meant the evidence that the economy was growing didn’t come until after Election Day, he said.

As photographers swarmed the stage during a break in the interview, Colbert and Obama spoke “pleasantly,” according to White House reporter Chris Johnson, and students took out their cellphones to snap pictures of the two. Before the show, the stage manager said the use of cell phones was prohibited, and students were frequently told by Secret Service agents to put away their phones.

Colbert also used his interview with the president to poke fun at the recent executive action Obama took on immigration.

“You realize you’re an emperor now,” Colbert said. “Why did you burn the Constitution?”

Obama said the executive action, which stops more than 4 million immigrants from facing deportation, came because Congress had passed laws on immigration but “left out things the president” wanted.

“Let’s focus on deporting felons and strengthening the border,” Obama said.

Obama and Colbert weren’t the only big names on Foggy Bottom on Monday. Prince William gave a speech at the World Bank condemning wildlife trafficking, after meeting with the president at the White House earlier in the day.

Obama last came to GW three years ago. In April 2011, he gave a speech on campus about the deficit and he returned in the fall for a World AIDS Day event. Colbert last spoke at the University in 2007 to talk about his book, “I Am America (And So Can You!),” in an interview with Tim Russert.

Colbert closed the interview, which was filmed in two segments and lasted about 20 minutes, by asking Obama to analyze his own time in office.

“Barack Obama: great president or greatest president?” Colbert said.

Obama said he’d leave judgment to the historians.

“I think I’m going to let someone else decide. Not you, but someone else,” Obama said.

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