George W. Bush photo

Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel

May 25, 2007

White House Conference Center Briefing Room

10:05 A.M. EDT

MR. STANZEL: Good morning, everyone. I'll start off with the President's schedule, then I'll take your questions, and have the week ahead for the end.

This morning the President started his day with a taping of the radio address. The topic of the radio address will be a Memorial Day message honoring the service and sacrifice of those who have worn the nation's uniform to preserve our freedom.

At 8:00 a.m. he had his normal briefings. At 10:50 a.m. -- the President is just now getting ready to depart -- the President will visit with wounded military personnel at the National Naval Medical Center, in Bethesda, and that is closed press. The President will visit with patients and will award Purple Hearts. This is his seventh visit with patients at the National Naval Medical Center.

Q: Why is it closed?

MR. STANZEL: So he can have private conversations with troops and their families.

Q: But don't you think it would be interesting to see who gets the medals?

MR. STANZEL: I'm sure a lot of things that the President does might be very interesting. But the President wants to have private conversations. We will release -- however, Helen, we will release photos of the President awarding those Purple Hearts. So you'll see it.

Q: How many Purple Hearts?

MR. STANZEL: I'll have to get that information. I don't have that.

At 12:35 p.m., the President will leave there and depart for Camp David, where he will be until Sunday.

With that, I will take your questions.

Q: Do you expect a pool statement from the President?

MR. STANZEL: It's possible, yes. It's possible. He does that frequently when he visits, so I'd be ready for that.

Q: Signing on the supplemental?

MR. STANZEL: It depends on when Congress sends the bill to us. As you know, it did pass last night, obviously, and they have to enroll the bill, so that takes a little bit of time. But latest I heard was that we expect it, hopefully, this afternoon. So the President will go ahead and sign it as soon as he is able to.

Q: At Camp David, if he --

MR. STANZEL: It's possible, yes.

Q: Would he make a statement, Scott, after signing it? Do you expect --

MR. STANZEL: I don't expect anything public, in terms of seeing him, a live statement. But I would expect that we'll release a written statement from him, upon signing.

Q: Since no Justice Department official has been forthcoming, who drew up the list of the attorneys -- the prosecutors to be fired?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think, Helen, that's a subject that's been covered exhaustively on hearings on the Hill --

Q: Okay. Tell me, I'm sorry, I have not read who --

MR. STANZEL: I will allow the Justice Department to help you out with that question because --

Q: But I'm telling you they're not saying.

MR. STANZEL: They've testified hours and hours and hours about this very issue.

Q: Did they say who drew up the list?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think it's been testified to the fact that Kyle Sampson was working on the process, and I think they testified to that fact.

Q: Did he think of the names, himself?

MR. STANZEL: I think he's spoken at length about the review process that was underway.

Q: Don't stall, just tell me. Who drew up --

MR. STANZEL: I will refer you to the Department of Justice, Helen.

Q: Well, that's another dodge.

Q: They won't tell her.

MR. STANZEL: I got that. Thank you. Any other questions?

Q: I just wanted to contribute that.

MR. STANZEL: Yes, Olivier.

Q: This is a little arcane, but there's some discussion of sending U.N. truce monitors to the Middle East to separate the Palestinians and the Israelis. Khalilzad says he's going to talk -- he might talk to some of the Arab countries at the U.N. today about that. Does the President favor sending U.N. truce monitors to the Middle East?

MR. STANZEL: That's an issue that I'm not aware of, Olivier, so we can look into that and get back to you.

Q: Another arcane matter. In Ukraine, the level of tension seems to have risen to a new height. Do you have anything in your --

MR. STANZEL: I don't have any new information on the Ukraine. That's something I can get back to you on, as well.

Q: Also, if I may, on a different subject. Yesterday the North Koreans made an interesting statement. Basically your goal in Korea is de-nuclearizing the Peninsula, right?

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry?

Q: The goal in Korea is de-nuclearizing the Peninsula.

MR. STANZEL: Absolutely.

Q: So they say, will that include removing the American nuclear weapons from the Peninsula?

MR. STANZEL: I'm sorry, that will --

Q: Will that include removing the American tactical nuclear weapons from the Peninsula?

MR. STANZEL: The purpose of the six-party talks has been to have a nuclear-free Peninsula. And working with North Korea on that issue, we expect the North Koreans to live up to the agreement that they made on February 13th. There are -- understand there are some banking issues that hopefully we're going to get through, but the purpose of the talks is to work with North Korea on de-nuclearizing the Peninsula.

Q: Right, but what about your own weapons?

MR. STANZEL: I would have to get back to you on the status of American forces there.


Q: Scott, Tony Blair, in an interview with the BBC, apparently said that we might see, "the beginnings of action on global warming and climate change at the G8," that he feels the U.S. might sign up to some kind of early action. Any response to that?

MR. STANZEL: I haven't seen his comments, but certainly as a matter of principle, the President has long understood that global climate change is occurring, humans are having an impact on that. We've dedicated over $35 billion of funding to climate research. We just had a report -- I believe it was earlier this week -- that CO2 emissions in this country have gone down. We're well on our way to meeting the President's goal of cutting CO2 emissions -- greenhouse gas intensity, that is -- by 18 percent by 2012. So we look forward to those talks.

Q: But does the President aim to sign an international agreement on global warming at --

MR. STANZEL: You know, we look forward to working with our partners on that important issue; however, it's important that all parties be addressed when talking about multilateral agreements. And we have had concerns in the past about countries not being involved, and countries that do have a large impact on global climate change.

Q: Was Tony Blair wrong?

MR. STANZEL: I haven't seen his comments, so I trust that your BlackBerry is accurate -- (laughter) -- but I haven't seen his comments.

Q: Violence is heating up between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The situation is also heating up in Lebanon. Is the administration concerned about this? Any plans for any kind of action to try to calm the situation?

MR. STANZEL: Well, we're certainly always concerned about tensions in the Middle East. As you may have seen, reports that support from the United States was reaching the Lebanese. We do fully support the efforts on the part of the Lebanese armed forces and the international security forces to reestablish security for the Lebanese people. This is certainly an important issue, and we did make an expedited delivery of assistance to them. We support the Siniora government and efforts to maintain democracy.

We're always concerned about tensions. Certainly, I can refer you to the State Department for their efforts, as well, which are regular and ongoing.

Q: What about the situation between the Israelis and the Palestinians in Gaza, with the overnight strikes close to the Prime Minister's home in Gaza?

MR. STANZEL: We always encourage people to look towards peaceful efforts to resolve differences. But for more information I would refer you to the State Department on that, as well.


Q: Can the Attorney General survive a no confidence vote in the Senate that's got a lot of Republican support?

MR. STANZEL: Well, that's a hypothetical. They haven't scheduled a time for that vote. We understand that that idea is out there. The Attorney General, though, has the full confidence of the President. He's moving forward with the priorities of the Department of Justice, in terms of combating terrorism and fighting child exploitation and other matters that are at the top of the priority list for the Department of Justice.

So what matters is that he has the full confidence of the President, and he's going to continue to work in that role.

Q: But does he have credibility on Capitol Hill with the American people?

MR. STANZEL: If you look at the results, Helen, of the Department of Justice, they have done an excellent job in terms of protecting this country and fighting crime. And we think that that's what people should look at when evaluating the performance of the Attorney General.


Q: I mean, how important does the President feel the Attorney General's institutional knowledge is and, sort of, experience on these foreign surveillance issues -- I'm sorry, domestic surveillance issues, and (inaudible) them down in Guantanamo? How much does the President not want to lose him because of those things? Is that an issue?

MR. STANZEL: Well, I think the President believes that he is the right person to serve in that role and has felt that way for quite some time because of his knowledge and his ability to address a myriad of issues. We feel that he is carrying out the functions of the Department of Justice, and he is doing that effectively, and he has the confidence of the President and that remains to be the case.

Q: One more. Republicans are saying this is the criminalization of politics. I don't think you guys have said anything about that. Do you agree with that?

MR. STANZEL: Well, we understand that there has been an effort to make -- to score political points on Capitol Hill. The President talked about that yesterday in his remarks at the press conference. That is how we have described it. And we would hope that members of Congress would focus on the serious issues that we face as a nation at war.

Q: Scott, (inaudible) --

MR. STANZEL: I think after four months of being in Iran, we understand now that Muqtada al Sadr is back in Iraq, and we hope that he would take the opportunity to play a productive role, because what we are there doing is working with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government that was elected to bring peace and security and stability to their country, and to lower the level of violence, in particular, working on security matters in the capital, Baghdad. So we hope that he would take the opportunity to play a constructive role.

Q: Scott, there were conflicting reports earlier today about whether or not the talks would continue, regarding Iran and the United States, on Monday. Is that -- can you clarify, is that still taking place?

MR. STANZEL: I understand there were -- I don't know where those reports may have been conflicting from, but those talks are ongoing; they're still scheduled. And I would refer you to the State Department for more information about Ambassador Crocker's meetings.

Q: Could you just clarify this bill signing guidance? Are you saying if he receives it today he will sign it today?

MR. STANZEL: Yes, that's exactly what I'm saying.

Q: Scott, any comment to John Murtha's announcement that he'll remove more funding from the '08 appropriations bill?

MR. STANZEL: We are gratified that a bipartisan group of members of Congress came together to send the support -- send funding to our troops without hamstringing our generals. There is a budget process that's ongoing. I'm sure there will be a vigorous debate about all parts of the budget, including the Defense Department budget. The President sent up his budget in early February, and we look forward to working with members to make sure that our forces and our troops in the Defense Department has what it needs.

Q: That really wasn't on target, but -- (laughter.)

MR. STANZEL: I understand that. (Laughter.)

Q: Okay. (Laughter.)

Q: -- by the President to stump at all for this immigration bill?

MR. STANZEL: Yes. In fact, we've got some information in the week ahead, if you'd like.


Q: Yes, one quick one. Iraqi lawmakers are expected to take up on Sunday a resolution that would ask the United States to leave. When the President said yesterday that if the Iraqi government asked us to leave, we'll leave, did he mean -- what form does that take? Is that the resolution? Is it Maliki saying it?

MR. STANZEL: I think the President was clear, in that it is a sovereign nation, and if it -- it is the choice of the government of Iraq to make that decision. That is something the President said that we would accept. So if it's the choice of the sovereign government of Iraq, that is what we would accept.

However, as the President indicated yesterday, we think that they -- we would hope that they would understand that the precipitous withdrawal of coalition forces and American forces would lead to further violence, would lead to further chaos, and could endanger that government, and the people of Iraq. So we will continue to work with them on security matters. The President was fairly clear on that yesterday.

Yes, sir.

Q: Thank you. Let me ask you on the North Korean missile test. It is reported that North Korea has launched a short range missile, on 25th, local time. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. STANZEL: It appears to be a routine exercise. This is something that they have done from time to time. That is -- we're aware of the situation, and certainly gathering more information about it. But at this point, we think that it appears to be a routine exercise, something that they've done before.

Week ahead. Sunday, the President will return from Camp David, and he will participate in the arrival of Rolling Thunder leadership. That will be at the South Portico, and that's pool coverage at 12:30 p.m.

On Monday, the President and Mrs. Bush participate in a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. That's at 10:55 a.m., and that will be pool coverage. At 11:15 a.m., the President will make remarks at Arlington National Cemetery, a Memorial Day commemoration.

On Tuesday, the President will travel to Glynco, Georgia, for remarks on immigration. And we'll provide more details about that later today. Glynco is spelled G-l-y-n-c-o. And he'll participate later that afternoon -- at 2:20 p.m., the President will participate in a photo opportunity with the Houston Dynamo, for all you soccer fans out there. That's at the North Portico at the White House. That will be stills at the top.

On Wednesday, at 5:35 p.m., the President will make remarks at a New Jersey Republican State Committee reception in Edison, New Jersey. It's pool for cameras, but open for correspondents.

And on Thursday at 10:10 a.m., the President will give his pre-G8 and Europe trip speech, and he will do so at USAID. He'll talk about the summit agenda, which includes international development, which is the reason for the venue -- USAID, which is located at the Ronald Reagan Building. And that is open press. Again, that's 10:10 a.m.

On Friday, he has no public events, but there will be, on Friday, at 12:30 p.m., an off camera, on the record briefing by the National Security Advisor on the G8 and the President's trip to Europe. So that will be right here.

Q: Why is that off camera?

MR. STANZEL: Because that's what the paper says. (Laughter.) So we'll take that up.

Q: May we ask that you consider opening that, which --

Q: Yes, and remind him it was on camera before the South America trip.


Q: So we'd like to have it --

Q: What time was it?

MR. STANZEL: That is at 12:30 p.m.

Q: Why the Glynco venue for the immigration speech?

MR. STANZEL: They do training of federal law enforcement officers. A number of different bodies, in terms of federal law enforcement, train there. So the President --

Q: Border Patrol?

MR. STANZEL: I believe Border Patrol, ICE, a number of -- we can get you more information as we have it later today. But the President will be talking about the need for comprehensive immigration reform. As you know that is an issue that's being debated this week. The issue that is being debated starts with border security first, and legislation has triggers in place so we meet some benchmarks, in terms of security, and before we move forward with the other parts of the bill, which will be a temporary worker program, bringing the 12 million undocumented workers who are already here out of the shadows, that sort of thing.

So it will be an opportunity for him to talk about what we're doing to secure our nation.

Thank you.

END 10:23 A.M. EDT

George W. Bush, Press Gaggle by Scott Stanzel Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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