Press Briefing by Tony Snow
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
10:55 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: Good morning. Good to see you all. Couple of notes, first on the President's day. The President had his normal briefings in the morning. At 10:30 a.m. he'll have a visit with wounded military personnel at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
He also this morning had phone calls with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the three members -- these were separate phone calls, these were four phone calls total -- the other members of the presidency council: Jalal Talabani, Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashimi. All of the conversations were about ongoing political progress and developments within Iraq; the President encouraging all of them to move not only aggressively forward, but also move together on issues of concern.
They do report that they have now transmitted to the council of representatives, their legislature, the oil law, and are hoping quite soon to have a related piece of legislation, one that has to deal with the distribution of oil and hydrocarbon revenues, before the legislature quite soon. The President, nevertheless, encouraged them to keep moving on other areas of political interest, including constitutional and political reform, and to work well with one another.
So that's the tenor, really, that was a common theme of all four conversations today. First phone call began at about 7:00 p.m., the last one -- 7:00 a.m. -- the last one finishes at about 7:40.
There's also going to be a re-enlistment ceremony at Camp Victory in Baghdad tomorrow. At a ceremony, more than 500 troops who were in the fight in Iraq are going to re-enlist in America's Armed Forces. Troops who have served in Iraq, as I've noted many times, continue to re-enlist in high numbers -- higher numbers than throughout the military, generally. In fiscal 2007, so far, more than 140,000 soldiers have enlisted or re-enlisted in the Army. All three components are above the retention goals as of the end of March; overall retention mission is 37,578.
In addition, the 500 re-enlistees will be joined by a hundred comrades who will raise their right hands in the oath of becoming citizens of the United States of America.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Is the President's decision to commute the sentence of Scooter Libby -- is that the final word in this case, or does he leave the door open for a pardon later?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way. The President thinks that he has dealt with the situation properly. There is always a possibility, or there's an avenue open for anybody to petition for consideration of a pardon. As far as we know, that's not been done; we don't know if it's contemplated by Scooter Libby or his defense team. But this is -- the President has put together what he thinks is the proper approach and the proper way of dealing with this case.
Q: Tony, did the Vice President weigh in?
MR. SNOW: My guess is that -- I don't have direct knowledge, Ed. But on the other hand, the President did consult with most senior officials and I'm sure that everybody had an opportunity to share their views.
Q: Why didn't he consult with Justice Department officials? Officials in his own Justice Department say normally someone would at least serve some jail time before a sentence is actually commuted. Why didn't he consult with his own Justice Department?
MR. SNOW: Well, a couple of things. First, quite often when you're dealing with sentences of this sort, they also have to deal with, as you point out, sentences that are ongoing or sometimes cases that have gotten a bit stale and people are trying to refresh their memories about the particulars of the case. The same would be true of the prosecutor, because they're quite often consulted for the same reason. Here you have a case that's still ongoing in the court system. It's not like people's memories are fuzzy about the details or the circumstances. The Attorney General, himself, was recused, as you know, in this case.
But the answer, Ed, is that it is certainly -- in some cases, people do such consultations. In this case -- and they do it for the reasons I've just cited. These tend to be, can you go back and fill me in on what happened in that case. If you take a look at the rash of pardons and commutations at the end of the Clinton era, a lot of that was people running around trying to find paperwork to figure out what the facts were. So let me just --
Q: Well, why no jail time, though?
MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?
Q: The jail time issue -- normally, somebody at least serves a day in jail, a week in jail, a month in jail.
MR. SNOW: Because the President thought the jail time, in fact, was inappropriate, and therefore, he decided to --
Q: I thought he said the jail time was excessive, the sentence was excessive. He didn't say it was inappropriate.
MR. SNOW: Right. No, he said it was excessive, and he thought that any jail time was excessive. And therefore, he did not see fit to have Scooter Libby taken to jail.
Keep in mind that Scooter Libby has been convicted of a felony; that remains the same. He has a $250,000 fine to pay; that remains the same. He's got two years of probation; that remains the same. And a felony conviction has profound impacts on his ability to earn a living as a lawyer because he's not going to be able to practice law. So this is hardly a slap on the wrist, in terms of penalty. It is a very severe penalty.
But the President also believes, for those who were arguing on behalf of a pardon, that you need to respect the jury system. Scooter Libby was tried before a jury of his peers. And it is important to make clear our faith in what really is a pillar of the American justice system, which is everybody's right to be tried before a jury of the peers.
Q: Tony, is the President saying --
Q: So does that mean --
MR. SNOW: Wait, one at a time, one at a time.
Q: So you're not closing the door, then, on a pardon.
MR. SNOW: Look, I think -- the President has done what he thinks is appropriate. The reason I will say I'm not going to close a door on a pardon is simply this, that Scooter Libby may petition for one. But the President has done what he thinks is appropriate to resolve this case.
Q: You're saying that he thinks he's done what is enough?
MR. SNOW: He thinks he's done what's appropriate.
Q: And that would be it, that he wouldn't do any more?
MR. SNOW: I don't want to read the President's mind, but on the other hand, I do not want to create expectations that somehow there will be more.
Q: Tony, does the President think that Scooter Libby did, in fact, lie; that a member of the White House staff was, in fact, guilty of these crimes?
MR. SNOW: What he believes is that he was convicted of a jury of his peers. The President was not sitting in as a fact witness on a very long case, and he does think that it's important to respect what the jury concluded, because the jury really is the group that counts here.
Q: Why not respect what the judge said, then?
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind that there is still -- he does respect what the judge said, but he also respects what -- I think if you took a look at the trial record, at what the parole commission recommended, that what the parole commission recommended was highly consistent with what the President thought was an appropriate punishment here.
Q: Well, no, they talked about 16-plus months.
MR. SNOW: No, that is -- there's a range of -- what you're taking a look -- this gets very complicated. You have obstruction of justice, and then you have mitigating factors that bumps it down. And the bump down gets you, according, again, to the parole commission, to an area where it would be appropriate, it would be within acceptable guidelines to have such things as home detention or probation. Probation is something that is going to be required in this case.
Q: Tony, it's my understanding that this administration has advocated allowing judges the discretion to sentence within guidelines, and that this sentence was, in fact, within customary guidelines. So how does the President square that view with his decision to commute the sentence?
MR. SNOW: Look, first, he thinks that -- I would suggest you go back and read some of the trial pleadings, because there is real controversy over what the proper guidelines are. What you're referring to are guidelines under the Espionage Act, which was never brought up as a possible violation by Mr. Libby or anybody there. But I don't want to get into the business of trying to -- I know you're trying to get into the business of having an abstruse legal argument with Patrick Fitzgerald; not going to do it. I will simply tell you that the President, after long consideration, weeks and weeks of consideration, came to the conclusion that 30 months in jail was excessive, and that he is comfortable with the punishment, which is still quite severe, of $250,000, a felony conviction, and two years of probation.
Q: And just as a follow-up, can you shed any light on the President's process of deliberations, how he went about thinking about this decision, which you said he considered over weeks and weeks?
MR. SNOW: Only to a very trivial extent, because, as you know, there are -- there's a very important debate going on in Washington about the importance of maintaining the sanctity of deliberations within a White House. I will leave it at this: The President spent weeks and weeks consulting with senior members of this White House about the proper way to proceed, and they looked at a whole lot of options, and they spent a lot of time talking through the options and doing some very detailed legal analysis.
Q: Did he consult with anyone outside the White House?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to -- I'm not going to characterize beyond that.
Q: And you know that because he told you so?
MR. SNOW: I know that because he told me so, and also others who were involved.
Q: But you were not involved?
MR. SNOW: I was not involved.
Q: Was it appropriate for the Vice President to weigh in about the fate of his own friend, and someone who had served him for years --
MR. SNOW: I'm sure that the Vice President may have expressed an opinion, but the fact is, the President understands the -- and he may have recused himself; I honestly don't know.
Q: Did he ask for the President to spare his friend?
MR. SNOW: We'd never -- as you know, Kelly -- talk about internal deliberations. Nice try. This is exactly what we're talking about right now before the House and Senate, and we're not going to characterize specifically any kind of advice or plea that somebody may make.
Q: But doesn't the public deserve to know if the Vice President asked the President to use this constitutional authority to spare his former aide and longtime friend from prison?
MR. SNOW: Well, let me put it this way. The President does not look upon this as granting a favor to anyone, and to do that is to misconstrue the nature of the deliberations. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to maintain the faith in the jury system, and he did that by keeping intact the conviction and some of the punishments. And at the same time, he thought it was important to put together what he thought was a just punishment, in this case, which is what he did. But to think of this as the bestowal of a favor is simply utterly to misconstrue the nature and --
Q: Why shouldn't it be thought of as a bestowal of a favor when there are dozens of other people who would probably make the same case that their sentences were too heavy and should have been commuted?
MR. SNOW: Well, I'm not sure that there are dozens of others who were -- every individual -- look, the court said --
Q: Martha Stewart.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, there may be people who may have made cases at various junctures, but they're all different. The President looked at this one on its merits.
Q: Was the President scared that if Scooter Libby went to jail that he might then talk about some secrets in the White House that would damage the President?
MR. SNOW: No, he thought it was an improper punishment. He thought it was an excessive punishment and, therefore, the proper way to do this was to go ahead and leave intact this -- again, the President's getting pounded on the right because he didn't do a full pardon. The idea is -- but the point of this is that you do not engage in these acts for symbolic or political reasons. You don't do it to make other people happy and say, boy, you showed it to so-and-so. The point here is to do what is consistent with the dictates of justice.
Q: So politics did not play into this decision at all?
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q: A pardon versus --
MR. SNOW: That is --
Q: -- wait a minute -- a pardon versus commuting the sentence?
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q: And also, let me ask you this. The President and other White House press secretaries would not touch this question of Joe Wilson during the height of the investigation. I'm going to ask you now, since the President is now basically saying this is over and he's done what he's done -- Joe Wilson asked for an apology for the American people because of the situation. Is the White House now willing to give the American people --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into --
Q: Why not?
MR. SNOW: Because --
Q: Why not? It's over now. You didn't want to talk about it then. Let's talk about it now. Do you think the American people are owed something because of the breach?
MR. SNOW: Number one, there is still considerable controversy about the facts of the case, including Joe Wilson's veracity. Number two, there is also --
Q: What's in question about his veracity? Detail that, please.
MR. SNOW: There is also -- just, very quickly, you take a look at the Senate reports, his characterization of who sent him over and what he told people when he was in Niger is at direct odds with what he attempted to tell the American public.
Q: That has nothing to do with leaking the name of --
MR. SNOW: I'm just --
Q: She's making a good point.
MR. SNOW: I'm answering her question, which she raised --
Q: But she's making a good point.
Q: You're arguing a different case.
MR. SNOW: No, I'm arguing --
Q: The apology that the American people may want -- some may want --
MR. SNOW: I understand.
Q: -- has to do with the fact that the White House allowed for a breach. And doesn't Libby owe the President an apology?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not -- this is -- number one, I believe the investigation found that the White House was not the source of the breach. Number two, the President has said that it is --
Q: But it's part of the Bush administration.
MR. SNOW: -- the President has said it is inappropriate to have such breaches, and has apologized for them. So beyond that --
Q: When did he apologize?
MR. SNOW: I think he said to the American people -- gave an apology, but --
Q: Tony, one point that is not in dispute is that Karl Rove was involved in the leak, in some way he was involved. He talked to at least two reporters who ended up publishing this information. In 2004, the President said -- he didn't talk about convictions or anything -- he said he would fire anyone in this White House who was involved in the leak. We now know Karl Rove was involved; he did not fire him.
MR. SNOW: There are two things to note. We have also said that we do not -- we are not going to make comments in detail until the legal process is over. And it is not; there is still an appeal through --
Q: You just put out a two-page statement. He commented --
Q: Wait a minute, he just put out this statement, and it's it's over.
Q: He commented -- how could you not --
Q: Yes, he's commented now, so that's a big -- we can shoot holes in that statement.
MR. SNOW: No, on follow-on issues like this that still may have bearing and an issue that may return to trial, I'm not going to comment on it.
Q: How can you stand there with a straight face and say that this is not a political act? What he did was inherently political.
MR. SNOW: It was political in the sense that, as President, he has the authority to do this, but on the other hand --
Q: Yes, he chose to do it for this person.
MR. SNOW: On the other hand, if you're doing the weathervane thing, you probably, depending on which constituency you wanted to make happy, you would have done something differently. I am telling you that this President approaches these very carefully as a matter of principle. And the key considerations were, let's figure out what we think is appropriate -- what he thinks is appropriate, in terms of punishment, and let's also do it in a way that does not do violence, but, in fact, shows respect for a system of justice -- not going in and overthrowing the hard work and the verdict of a duly constituted jury. That, to me, demonstrates just the opposite of political consideration. This is an attempt to try to figure out a principled way of dealing with what he thought was a thorny issue.
Q: Tony, what's more palatable now? A pardon today, or a pardon at the last day of his presidency? What's more palatable for the American public?
MR. SNOW: You're assuming that there's a pardon.
Q: Two-thirds of the American people say that they wanted Scooter Libby to serve this sentence, so the President has not made them happy. Conservatives wanted a full pardon, so the President has not made them happy.
MR. SNOW: Well, apparently, then, he did not do this for political reasons, did he? You have just made my case.
Q: Tony, did Libby directly ask the President for --
MR. SNOW: No, there were no direct communications. And the President has not communicated directly with Scooter Libby.
Q: What about the Vice President, same question?
MR. SNOW: I have no idea, and I'm -- you'll have to ask the Vice President's office. The notifications that took place yesterday were from White House legal counsel to Judge Walton, to Patrick Fitzgerald, and to Scooter Libby's attorney.
Q: Tony, two questions --
MR. SNOW: On this topic, or something else?
Q: Yes, on this topic. Among those protesting the President's refusal to allow the Libby imprisonment was Maryland Senator Cardin, who announced that he was "shocked" at what he called the President's "double standard." And my question: Does the White House recall any such expressed Cardin shock at the non-imprisonment of Democrat lawbreaker Sandy Berger, and Marion Barry, as well as no imprisonment for that convicted perjurer Bill Clinton, and his pardon recipient Mark Rich?
MR. SNOW: No, I'm not familiar with that. But perhaps they are waiting to go back and revisit those issues when they have --
Q: Could we talk about the two -- trying to have it two ways, saying that we have faith in the justice system, and yet what the judge did was excessive, even though it's within guidelines, according to the prosecutor.
MR. SNOW: What I said was with the jury system. But also, what the President did is also consistent with guidelines. You need to understand the guideline argument better. The question is, what are you using as your baseline? And the parole commission, which does this for a living, had recommended guidelines --
Q: But they recommended --
MR. SNOW: I understand that -- the President has the power to commute, and he used it, and he used it in a manner that he saw fit. That's not trying to have it both ways. What the President said is that he is not going to go in and overturn what the jury did. On the other hand, again, he thought that the penalty was excessive. He is certainly permitted to do that. You'll concede that the President does have that power, constitutionally, and furthermore, that this President has done it very carefully.
If he had decided that he wanted to commute the sentence and get rid of all punishment, but still keep intact the felony, he could have done that. But instead what he did was he said that he believes that when somebody is convicted of this punishment, it is worth having -- I mean, of this crime -- it is certainly worth respecting the jury's decision and having significant and severe punishment. And I guarantee you, a quick show of hands how many people in this room think that $250,000 is a wrist slap, or that two years of probation, or, in fact, the loss of your career is somehow a trivial punishment. This is serious punishment.
Q: But doesn't he already have a legal defense fund -- that is going to cover --
Q: -- $5 million that he's already got --
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll have to see.
Q: So it's not really excessive for him, then. Most average Americans couldn't afford $250,000, but most average Americans don't have Fred Thompson raising millions of --
MR. SNOW: Well, on the other hand, he also has legal fees.
Q: So the $250,000, though, is really not that much money for him.
MR. SNOW: I don't know, you'll have to find out. Do you think $250,000 --
Q: But that's not the case -- you said that it was a lot of money.
MR. SNOW: It is a lot of money.
Q: But he has more than $250,000 --
MR. SNOW: You don't know that.
Q: Well, in what he's raised.
Q: -- there's no shortage of people who would gladly raise -- and have already been doing so.
MR. SNOW: Well, good. Americans are a generous people.
Q: How does the President justify this commutation when there are thousands of others in jail with a similar request?
MR. SNOW: I'm not sure that -- thousands in jail with similar requests?
Q: Three thousand.
MR. SNOW: Three thousand in jail with similar -- I'm not sure that you can take anybody who has a perjury count and say that they're all the same. Every count has to be considered differently. The President, as you know, looks very carefully at these things. And furthermore, not every one of these cases comes before a President, as you're well aware. Attorneys quite often petition for these and that is one of the procedures by which they do it.
Q: Can I follow on that? There are more than 3,000 current petitions for commutation -- not pardons, but commutation -- in the federal system under President Bush. Will all 3,000 of those be held to the same standard that the President applied to Scooter Libby?
MR. SNOW: I don't know.
Q: Tony, I'm trying to get a handle on it -- are you saying this White House handled this case in an extraordinary manner, or in a routine manner?
MR. SNOW: I think it handled it in a routine manner in the sense that the President took a careful look. But it is an extraordinary case by virtue of the fact that not only do you have the extreme level of publicity, but also that in many ways, the hand was called by a court decision to go ahead and send Scooter Libby to jail while he was still in the middle of his appeals process.
Q: But how could it not be extraordinary to grant something to someone who didn't even ask for it?
MR. SNOW: I just think that's the President, again, using his commutation power to do what he thought was necessary to address what he thought was an excessive punishment.
Q: But absent a request, he wouldn't even have known about this case if it didn't involve his former aide.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think you probably would have reminded him of it. The fact -- you talk about, if it had not involved a former aide -- this is a thing that has been in the headlines for quite a while.
Q: Won't this encourage other members of his administration to obstruct justice?
MR. SNOW: No.
Q: Tony, you didn't answer the question about Karl Rove, though. So why wasn't Karl Rove fired?
MR. SNOW: The reason I said that is because you're asking a question that still may be arising -- may be a subject of inquiry and ongoing --
Q: How many years is it going to take? I mean, the President made that statement in 2004.
Q: Fitzgerald said it's over.
Q: Fitzgerald said it's over.
MR. SNOW: Well, Patrick Fitzgerald is not the one responsible for making a final decision on appeals. And I believe that --
Q: -- other special prosecutor?
MR. SNOW: I believe that the Libby team, at this point, still has before the court an appeal.
Q: The President didn't wait for the appeals.
Q: What's the point of the statement --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, the point was that some of these issues -- it certainly does, because these are things that may come up as questions within the context of further trial.
Q: How does this square with the President saying, anybody who leaks in my White House, anybody who doesn't follow the law, is not going to work for me?
MR. SNOW: Well, once we get -- once we get final determination on that, we'll deal with it. By the way, Karl was not accused of breaking any laws. He was not, in fact, indicted on anything. So you've got -- there's a lot of contention in this, but you also need to stick with the fact record.
Q: The President set a lower standard first. He didn't say about breaking the law, he said involved in leaking the identity. So you've changed the standard --
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, I was just -- I was responding to that particular question. Again, when we get final clarity on this through the judicial system, I'll answer the question.
Q: Thank you, Tony. Former mayor Giuliani, who was involved in more than 1,000 pardons during his tenure at the Justice Department, referred to this, in retrospect, in the overall scheme, as a non-crime, and suggested a full pardon should have come right now. Would you respond to what the mayor said?
MR. SNOW: The President has made it clear that, again, he respects the importance of having a jury system and respecting that jury system, where having listened over a long trial to the facts of the case, a jury of his peers found Scooter Libby guilty of perjury.
Q: So he doesn't agree that it's a non-crime, as the mayor said?
MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not going to try to get into parsing all the particulars. The President is not trying to serve as a fact witness in this case, or even one who is trying to analyze the virtues or defects of the case that were presented to the court. What he does know is that a jury reached this verdict. And he is intent on honoring --
Q: But doesn't he have to decide that in order to exercise that constitutional authority, just in his own mind to have a view of whether a crime was committed or not?
MR. SNOW: Again, I think what he does is, he understands that he's been convicted, and that to him is sufficient.
Q: So he accepts a crime was committed?
MR. SNOW: He accepts that the jury has rendered a verdict and found him guilty of a crime and, therefore, punished him for it.
Q: Thank you, Tony. Does the White House have any reaction to the resignation of Japan Defense Minister Kyuma?
MR. SNOW: No, let's -- let's first stay on this topic, and then for those who have other ones -- don't have any reaction to it. Contact NSC later in the day.
Q: You were saying to Ken that this is routine, in term of the President's procedure, and routinely, the procedure to consult with the Justice Department. Can I just clarify, did the President talk to Attorney General Gonzales?
MR. SNOW: Again, we're not going to -- we're not going to get into internal deliberations --
Q: No, but can you say whether he did not talk to Gonzales at all about this?
MR. SNOW: Well, the Attorney General recused himself from this case. It would have been inappropriate -- it would have been inappropriate to have any conversations with him.
Q: Okay, and he did not talk to anybody at Justice?
MR. SNOW: I'm not aware of any, but again, I'm not going to get you -- we still have this strong belief in the importance of the confidentiality of communications.
Q: Well, the reason I ask is because the system expects a President to consult. And there would be no harm in saying --
MR. SNOW: Well, no, you -- what you've created is a perception that there is a hard and fast system that operates the same way every time. As I pointed out quite often, what is involved in taking a look at old cases is to go back to the prosecutors who originally did it, have them go back to their files, consult the case, and look at it in that direction. Those are conditions that do not apply in this case. And therefore, you don't have the necessity of going back and saying, will you tell us what went on? I mean, we're pretty well aware of what's been going on and the issues in the case, and we are certainly satisfied that the President spent a lot of time and very careful deliberation about this --
Q: But that argues that it got special handling because of who Mr. Libby is. You're making the opposite case, it seems.
MR. SNOW: No, I think when you're trying to -- no, what it's saying is, it gets special handling because of the peculiar nature of the Libby case, which is it's ongoing and highly public. That's what we're talking about here.
Q: So he got special handling because of who he is, or was.
MR. SNOW: No, he got special handling because the nature -- because -- look, Ken --
Q: A similar case --
MR. SNOW: No, Ken, here's what you're doing. What you're saying is, because Scooter Libby is a public figure, therefore a highly public trial, therefore the facts are well-known. And knowing the facts are well-known, you do not need to do prior consultations the way that you do in the past to try to get those facts available, that somehow all of that is attributable to "who Scooter Libby is." No, it is, in fact, a consequence of the kind of trial that you've got here. This is not something, again, where you have to go back and consult members of the Justice Department about what the facts of the case are or the circumstances surrounding it.
Furthermore, you've got a trial record, and it is still a trial, so it's not the case that you have to go ask the prosecutor and he needs to burnish his memory about it.
Q: I just want to follow up. There are some who -- on the right who are very interested in the idea of a full pardon and they are pointing out that a convicted felon can serve in the government. If Vice President Cheney wants to bring Scooter Libby back into his office, would the President support that?
MR. SNOW: I don't have any idea. This is not something that's come up.
Q: Tony, I want to go back to the issue of an apology, and I want to stay issue-focused and not blaming. Are there -- is the American people owed some kind of apology from someone in this administration for the leaking of a CIA person's name, personnel's name?
MR. SNOW: Yes, it's improper to be leaking those names.
Q: You say it's improper, so you're saying someone in this administration owes the American public an apology?
MR. SNOW: I'll apologize. All done.
Q: No, it's not. That's flippant, that's a very flippant way of doing something very serious -- it was a very serious matter. That was very flippant.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, I think in some ways the characterization -- because there are so many complex issues involved in this, including the provenance of it, and furthermore, the fact that in the Washington culture things get leaked all the time. And I'm not aware --
Q: Does that make it right?
MR. SNOW: How many of you have apologized for a controversial name appearing under tough circumstances in a news story? I daresay the answer is zero.
Q: Tony, does the President believe that prison time for perjury is excessive, per se? And if he does not believe that, what is it about this case, beyond the fact that Scooter Libby worked for this administration, that led him to commute the sentence? What are the factors here?
MR. SNOW: Again, we are not going to get you into the -- I'm not going to delve you into the deep considerations, other than to tell you the President considered it excessive --
Q: Does he think prison for perjury is excessive?
MR. SNOW: -- as did a parole board. As did the parole board. So I'm simply telling you that -- what you're trying to do is to set up a false distinction here as -- acting as if this were not the sort of punishment that would be meted out in a perjury case. It is.
Q: I'm asking you, if someone else perjures himself --
Q: -- say that it was excessive.
MR. SNOW: It said that, in fact, the -- consistent with the guidelines that it talked about, for the general use of guidelines in mitigated circumstances, and it goes in some length into those considerations.
Q: I'd like to know, if someone else perjures himself, someone unknown to the President, does the President believe that prison time for that offense is excessive?
MR. SNOW: It depends on the circumstances surrounding the case.
Q: And so what is it about these circumstances that --
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get you -- beyond what we've said, I'm just not going to play the game.
Q: But is one day, even one day in prison excessive for this kind of a crime? I mean, people have spent time in prison for --
MR. SNOW: No, no -- this crime. This crime.
Q: This crime, yes.
MR. SNOW: Not this kind of crime; this crime.
Q: One day is too much for this particular crime?
MR. SNOW: The President decided that it was too much for this one.
Q: Why not some jail time served, as was --
MR. SNOW: Tell me why.
Q: I'm asking you.
MR. SNOW: No, it sounds to me like --
Q: -- obstruction of justice, is why --
MR. SNOW: You don't think --
Q: -- convicted of obstruction of justice.
Q: For lying, perjury.
Q: He was convicted of -- am I right? He was convicted of obstruction of justice.
Q: He was convicted of perjury. He lied about leaking.
MR. SNOW: -- running high in the press room today.
Q: No, you're trying to take the logical and change it around and make -- you're insulting our intelligence.
MR. SNOW: No, I don't think so. What I've tried to do is to insert a little nuance into a conversation that continues to try to create broad generalizations that can be used, frankly, to twist the case out of context.
Q: Does Scooter Libby owe the President something now?
MR. SNOW: What Scooter Libby is doing is paying a debt to society.
Q: Does he owe the President not to give -- ask for a pardon?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going to try to get into what he owes or doesn't owe. I mean, that's -- ask Scooter Libby what he thinks he owes.
Q: Should he just be happy right now that his sentence was commuted, and he should not come back and ask for a pardon?
MR. SNOW: You know, again, I am not going to get in -- tell somebody their business. I will remind you that this is a guy, again, who has a felony conviction, a $250,000 fine, two years probation, and basically has lost the way he has built a living in his entire life. That is pretty significant punishment.
Q: Book deal, right?
MR. SNOW: I love the fact that everybody thinks folks get rich off books. I like Scooter, but I'm not sure that's one that's going to go flying off the shelves.
Have we exhausted this, or do we have any --
Q: Yes, we're pretty exhausted. (Laughter.)
Q: Two questions. One, as far as the immigration bill was concerned, is the President still disappointed, or he has still hope for this immigration bill?
MR. SNOW: The President believes we have to do comprehensive immigration reform. The fact that the Senate decided not to act does not mean that the world will not continue with a situation in which the laws presently on the books are insufficient for providing sufficient punishment to have employers, with due diligence, figure out whether their employees are legal or not. It does not have an encouragement for those who come here legally to identify themselves in such a way that it is possible to track them, to ensure that they're obeying the laws, working, paying taxes, and making constructive contributions to society. It does not allow us, at least at this present juncture, the $4.4 billion that was contemplated to complete the most ambitious border security program in history. It does not allow us to proceed with a temporary worker program that alleviates one of the central fallacies of the 1986 bill, which is the need for people to come in on a temporary basis, to flow in and out of the country, to fill jobs that Americans don't normally fill, but at the same time need filled. And we're already seeing a number of stories out of farm states about real problems folks are facing because they do not have sufficient labor right now to do what they need to do.
All of these are problems, and the question now is, okay, Congress, having said this is a huge problem, it's a top priority, we've got to deal with it -- the question is, what are you going to do? If there is constructive action, we'd love to see it, love to be able to help.
Q: Thank you.
Q: Second one, please. Is President aware of the food -- quality of food dumped from China now, also tainted food comes to the U.S. and it is costing the U.S. $700 billion or more?
Q: I like this one.
MR. SNOW: You took the -- that was Gizzi's question the other day. That was interesting. The President is certainly aware of news reports.
END 12:35 P.M. EDT
Tony Snow, Press Briefing by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275879