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April 11, 2013

White House says Obama didn't talk Cuba with Jay-Z

Hip-hop artist Jay-Z defended his trip to Cuba in a new song today, saying he got clearance from the White House -- a claim disputed by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who said, "I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury," -- insisting it was the U.S. Treasury Department -- not the White House that ok'd the trip to the island.

Jay-Z released "Open Letter" in the wake of criticism from two Miami Republicans who have questioned whether Jay-Z and his wife, Beyonce -- both big Obama supporters -- lawfully visited Cuba, which is mostly off limits to ordinary U.S. tourists.

After inquiries from Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, Treasury officials said Tuesday the couple were granted an educational exchange license to travel. In the song, the lyrics include "boy from the hood, I got White House clearance."

Later, they say, "Obama said, 'Chill, you gonna get me impeached, you don't need this s--- anyway, chill with me on the beach."

But Carney said Obama never talked about the Cuba trip to Jay-Z: "Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel, as you know and the White House has nothing to do with it," Carney said. "I am absolutely saying the White House, from the president on down, had nothing to do with anybody's personal -- anybody's travel to Cuba. That is something that Treasury handles."

Pressed on why Jay-Z had mentioned Obama, Carney quipped "OFAC, Treasury, these are tough words to rhyme.

"It's a song," he said. "The president did not communicate with Jay-Z over this trip."


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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