Spokesman: Obama 'did not communicate' with Jay-Z on Cuba trip

The White House said Thursday that President Obama "absolutely" did not aid Jay-Z and Beyoncé in obtaining travel licenses to visit Cuba.

ADVERTISEMENT
On Wednesday night, the rapper released a song that bragged about the trip and included the lyrics "boy from the hood but got White House clearance." The lyrics also say Obama told him "chill, you gonna get me impeached."

But on Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said dismissively "it's a song."

"I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury, because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel and the White House had nothing to do it," Carney said.

"I am absolutely saying that the White House, from the president on down, had nothing to do with it," he continued, adding that "the president did not communicate with Jay-Z over the trip."

Jay-Z and Beyoncé drew criticism from Republican lawmakers after traveling to Cuba last month for their fifth wedding anniversary. 

Top Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, argued the song's lyrics raised new questions about the president's involvement.

"Jay-Z says the WH approved his Cuba trip. Will @PressSec continue evading questions?" Priebus tweeted.

Former Bush White House spokesman Ari Fleischer also questioned the lyrics.

"Based on what Jay Z rapped, boy am I glad I'm not Jay Carney today.  I bet potus spoke to Jay Z and did not tell Jay C," Fleischer tweeted.

Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), have questioned why the Treasury Department granted the entertainers a license to travel to Cuba. In a letter sent earlier this week, the department told the lawmakers that educational trips to Cuba are allowed under U.S. law under "people-to-people" licenses.

According to multiple media reports, Academic Arrangements, a New York company, obtained the travel licenses for the couple.

These licenses allow anyone to visit the island nation, although the trips must be designed around meetings with civil society groups and average Cuban citizens, and generally must exclude visits with Cuban government officials.