Between 5:45 and 6 pm ET this evening, President Obama paid the White House press corps a surprise visit.
"I just want to thank everybody for not just completely ripping up Gibbs," the President said in reference to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' first press briefing. "We were all watching on TV with anticipation of, you know, some flop sweat, but he handled it and I'm very proud of him."
Of the press area, he said, "It's smaller than I thought."
Politico's Jonathan Martin tried to grill the President on the fact that his nominee for deputy Defense Secretary, William Lynn, was until recently a lobbyist for defense contractor Raytheon and thus a complete violation of the President's much-heralded anti-lobbying rules. Mr. Obama refused to answer substantive questions, saying he was not there to take questions, but rather to say hi.
In the basement of the press area, someone asked how his daughters were.
"They're doing great," he said. "Although they've been a little sleepy, actually."
Is he sleepy?
"Yeah," he said, adding that "we got a lot to do."
"So nice to see you," he said over and over.
"I just wanted to say hello to everybody," he said.
At another point: "We will try to have a relationship that's successful and you guys feel like you're actually getting answers."
He said of Gibbs again, "I'm very proud of him today. He got a fist bump from me."
As he ascended from the basement, he asked, "When was it renovated? Looks pretty new."
"You guys got a party room back there?" he joked.
Asked about his basketball hobby, the President said that "we installed a new basketball net on the tennis court."
He said he had worked out, but had not played basketball outside because it's too cold.
Asked about the news that he would be keeping his Blackberry despite lawyers' advice, he said, "I won the fight but I don't think it's actually up and running yet."
"Alright guys," he said, leaving.
-- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller