Bush: Will "correct" fired U.S. attorney problem. Transcript
Wed Mar 21, 2007 15:46

Bush: Will "correct" fired U.S. attorney problem. Transcript.


ush: Will "correct" fired U.S. attorney problem. Transcript.

WASHINGTON--President Bush on Tuesday reaffirmed support for embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Bush said he will let Congress interview key staffers--but that's not the sworn testimony of Karl Rove many in Congress are calling for.

"Today I'm also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we're giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys."

Click below for transcript.......


Office of the Press Secretary


For Immediate Release March 20, 2007



The Diplomatic Reception Room

5:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Earlier today, my staff met with congressional leaders about the resignations of U.S. attorneys. As you know, I have broad discretion to replace political appointees throughout the government, including U.S. attorneys. And in this case, I appointed these U.S. attorneys and they served four-year terms.

The Justice Department, with the approval of the White House, believed new leadership in these positions would better serve our country. The announcement of this decision and the subsequent explanation of these changes has been confusing and, in some cases, incomplete. Neither the Attorney General, nor I approve of how these explanations were handled. We're determined to correct the problem.

Today I'm also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and his key staff will testify before the relevant congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we're giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys.

In the last 24 hours, the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than 3,000 pages of internal Justice Department documents, including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency in White House communications.

Third, I recognize there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. And if the staff of a President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice, and the American people would be ill-served.

Yet, in this case, I recognize the importance of members of Congress having -- the importance of Congress has placed on understanding how and why this decision was made. So I'll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts. In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department or any other outside person, including members of Congress and their staff, related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However, we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.

The initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don't choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.

As we cut through all the partisan rhetoric, it's important to maintain perspective on a couple of important points. First, it was natural and appropriate for members of the White House staff to consider and to discuss with the Justice Department whether to replace all 93 U.S. attorneys at the beginning of my second term. The start of a second term is a natural time to discuss the status of political appointees within the White House and with relevant agencies, including the Justice Department. In this case, the idea was rejected and was not pursued.

Second, it is common for me, members of my staff, and the Justice Department to receive complaints from members of Congress in both parties, and from other citizens. And we did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted. These concerns are often shared between the White House and the Justice Department, and that is completely appropriate.

I also want to say something to the U.S. attorneys who reside. I appreciate your service to the country. And while I strongly support the Attorney General's decision and am confident he acted appropriately, I regret these resignations turned into such a public spectacle.

It's now my hope that the United States Congress will act appropriately. My administration has made a very reasonable proposal. It's not too late for Democrats to drop the partisanship and work together. Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation, or whether they will join us in working to do the people's business. There are too many important issues, from funding our troops to comprehensive immigration reform, to balancing the budget, for us to accomplish on behalf of the American people.

Thank you for your time. Now I'll answer a couple of questions.


Q Mr. President, are you still completely convinced that the administration did not exert any political pressure in the firing of these attorneys?

THE PRESIDENT: Deb, there is no indication that anybody did anything improper. And I'm sure Congress has that question. That's why I've put forth a reasonable proposal for people to be comfortable with the decisions and how they were made. Al Gonzales and his team will be testifying. We have made available people on my staff to be interviewed. And we've made an unprecedented number of documents available.

Q Sir, are you convinced, personally?

THE PRESIDENT: There's no indication whatsoever, after reviews by the White House staff, that anybody did anything improper.


Q If today's offer from Mr. Fielding is your best and final offer on this, are you going to go to the mat in protecting the principle that you talked about? And why not, since you say nothing wrong was done by your staff, why not just clear the air and let Karl Rove and other senior aides testify in public, under oath? There's been a precedent for previous administrations doing that.

THE PRESIDENT: Some have, some haven't. My choice is to make sure that I safeguard the ability for Presidents to get good decisions.

Michael, I'm worried about precedence that would make it difficult for somebody to walk into the Oval Office and say, Mr. President, here's what's on my mind. And if you haul somebody up in front of Congress and put them in oath and all the klieg lights and all the questioning, to me, it makes it very difficult for a President to get good advice. On the other hand, I understand there is a need for information sharing on this. And I put forth what I thought was a rational proposal, and the proposal I put forward is the proposal.

Q And then you'll go to the mat, you'll take this to court --

THE PRESIDENT: Absolutely. I hope the Democrats choose not to do that. If they truly are interested in information -- in other words, if they want to find out what went on between the White House and the Justice Department, they need to read all the emails we released. If they're truly interested in finding out what took place, I have proposed a way for them to find out what took place. My concern is, they would rather be involved with partisanship. They view this as an opportunity to score political points.

And anyway, the proposal we put forward is a good one. There really is a way for people to get information. We'll just fine out what's on their mind.

Kelly O'.

Q Sir, in at least a few instances, the attorneys that were dismissed were actively investigating Republicans -- in San Diego, in Arizona, in Nevada. By removing them, wouldn't that have possibly impeded or stopped those investigations? And, sir, if I may also ask about the Attorney General. He does not have support among many Republicans and Democrats. Can he still be effective?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, he's got support with me. I support the Attorney General. I told you in Mexico I've got confidence in him; I still do. He's going to go up to Capitol Hill and he's going to explain the very questions you asked. I've heard all these allegations and rumors. And people just need to hear the truth, and they're going to go up and explain the truth.

Q In San Diego, Nevada, Arizona, Republicans were the targets of investigations, and those U.S. attorneys were removed. Does that not give the appearance --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't -- it may give the appearance of something, but I think what you need to do is listen to the facts, and let them explain to -- it's precisely why they're going up to testify, so that the American people can hear the truth about why the decision was made.

Listen, first of all, these U.S. attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President. I named them all. And the Justice Department made recommendations, which the White House accepted, that eight of the 93 would no longer serve. And they will go up and make the explanations as to why -- I'm sorry this, frankly, has bubbled to the surface the way it has, for the U.S. attorneys involved. I really am. These are -- I put them in there in the first place; they're decent people. They serve at our pleasure. And yet, now they're being held up into the scrutiny of all this, and it's just -- what I said in my comments, I meant about them. I appreciated their service, and I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to where it's got. But that's Washington, D.C. for you. You know, there's a lot of politics in this town.

And I repeat, we would like people to hear the truth. And, Kelly, your question is one I'm confident will be asked of people up there. And the Justice Department will answer that question in open forum for everybody to see.

If the Democrats truly do want to move forward and find the right information, they ought to accept what I proposed. And the idea of dragging White House members up there to score political points, or to put the klieg lights out there -- which will harm the President's ability to get good information, Michael -- is -- I really do believe will show the true nature of this debate.

And if information is the desire, here's a great way forward. If scoring political points is the desire, then the rejection of this reasonable proposal will really be evident for the American people to see.

Listen, thank you all for your interest.

END 5:57 P.M. EDT

Posted by Lynn Sweet on March 20, 2007 05:35 PM | Permalink

Can we please get on with working on bigger issues than playing pay back! I knew the Democrats were going to waste time with lynchings , it is sooo old. Please guys, move on with all this payback going to expose you , democrats are out for justice baloney and get on with your job!! We have other issues like Social Security to work out.
Bush is doing a great job. Just because you disagree with him, please do not waste my money and time going on witch hunts.
I have tossed several magazines I subscribe to and I am not reading MSN News either as I am tired of these witch hunts and all of you trying to pump it up.
I know some people who are not coming back to congress again when voting time comes.

Posted by: maria fitzgerald | March 20, 2007 07:19 PM

The Bush adminastration haven't told the truth about anything yet, and now Bush waNTS US ALL TO BELIEVE THAT SUDDENLY THEY WILL START TELLING TRUTHS.....HA,HA,HA,HA,HA.... If they can tell the truth in private they should be ABLE TO TELL THE TRUTH TO THE PUBLIC and under oath... after all if it's the truth there should be nothing to hide, and why hear it second hand.

if the public had the truth about this admin. they would have been IMPEACHED in 2003.

Posted by: J. Ferren | March 20, 2007 07:45 PM

The President of the United States, unfortunately does not know what the "truth" is any more, if he ever did. All that this administration deserves is to be impeached!

Posted by: Mark Jensen | March 20, 2007 07:57 PM

The U.S. Attorney in Nevada was quoted in the local papers as saying that the idea he was fired because of the FBI investigation of our Governor, Jim Gibbons, was "absurd."

Posted by: Joe Elliott | March 20, 2007 08:00 PM

Gee imagine that - the covering up liar doesn't want an investigation. Big shocker.

Posted by: Mr W | March 20, 2007 08:03 PM

Well, with all the President's ummms and uhhhs, and his inability to answer the questions being asked, it is as apparent that he, like his Attorney General, is lying. He wants the Dems NOT to be partisan about a procedure that was wholly partisan on the administration's part to begin with. "Do as I say, not as I do." Hmmm. Can anyone believe what he says? I can't! And if everyone in his administrration is soooo without guilt, where is the harm in testifying "in" oath, as he says. (Remind me, how did we get this guy as President? Oh that's right, The Supreme Court.)

Posted by: Bob Marinaccio | March 20, 2007 08:06 PM

It sounds like typical Bush. "Do it my way, you are just trying to cause trouble" He put forth what he calls a proposal and then demands it be followed. I am counting the days until the U.S. can rid itself of this dictaiting bafoon.

Posted by: Eric- Michigan | March 20, 2007 08:36 PM

Zero vote of confidence in George Bush and his theory of executive privilege. Bush doesn't seem to want to understand the distinction between the power to nominate and the power to confirm, but I'll bet Rove does.

Multiple frauds on the congress and the american people have been committed, from the justification for war, to a staffer's last minute (and unauthorized) sneaking an appointment power for US Attorneys into the patriot act bill. The former scandal kills americans, and the latter threatens rule of law and democracy itself.

Enough. Rove almost certainly engineered the patriot act fraud purporting to give giving the president the power to appoint US Attorneys(without confirmation). The testimony must include Rove and be under oath.

P. Fogg

Posted by: Phineas Fogg | March 20, 2007 09:02 PM

I believe absolutely everything King George says and promises. Why shouldn't I? Sincerely, Pinocchio

Posted by: Ed | March 20, 2007 09:33 PM

Why do Americans hate each other so, it must surely be they hate us in the rest of the world more. Are you a nation in eternal self divorce and self destruction. You are surely succeeding. Perhaps Bush should have a hounds eyes installed and Gomer's "by gollies" voice overprinted and should just forget his job and let hysteria rule

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