Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route North Kingstown, Rhode Island
10:10 A.M. EDT
MR. SNOW: All right, the President's schedule for the day: 8:00 a.m., normal briefings; 8:35 a.m. he made the announcement of the official nomination of Admiral Michael Mullen and General James Cartwright to Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
At 11:20 a.m. he will make remarks to the Naval War College. The President is going to give an update on Iraq. He'll talk about new offenses underway in Diyala. He'll talk about some of the fighting and targeting of al Qaeda, including going after car bomb factories in the Baghdad belt, and efforts to bring security to the population of Baghdad, which was one of the purposes of the surge. He'll also talk about what we're seeing in Anbar province, which was also a point of emphasis in the new way forward announced in January. He will discuss, as well, the Iraqi response to the latest attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
On the way toward the War College, the President will have an aerial tour of Tall Ships Rhode Island 2007; he'll fly over and take a peak.
The Department of Interior will announce today that the Bald Eagle has been recovered and is being taken off the endangered species list. Forty years ago there were only 400 nesting pairs; today an excess of 10,000 -- I'm sorry, nearly 10,000.
Also, Mrs. Bush is keeping an online journal during her trip in Africa. She's posted journal entries and photographs about her trip and experiences on Ivillage.com. We encourage people to take the opportunity to learn about ongoing efforts to fight HIV/AIDS, combat malaria, provide clean water for African communities, and improve access to education for all Africans.
In addition, as you know, Fred Fielding, White House Counsel, has informed the Chairman of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that the President is asserting executive privilege with regard to subpoena requests, four of which are due today, and one of which is due on July 12th.
Q: How far will you all go to fight that? Will you go to court?
MR. SNOW: It's premature to talk about court. Really what we have talked about all along is working to accommodate the need for information by members of Congress. We've provided more than 8,500 pages of documents, as well as access to key players. We have expressed our willingness to give the information necessary for Congress to do its deliberations. And it's really up to Congress now.
Q: The privilege applies to the document request, but what about testimony by Taylor and Miers?
MR. SNOW: We are responding only to the subpoenas which refer to document requests.
Q: So the offer to the interviews stands?
MR. SNOW: No. All the offers are off the table. Subpoenas -- if the subpoenas come off the table, the offers go back on the table.
Q: Tony, the Fielding letter seems to reply only to the earlier request for subpoenas, not these latest ones, which have to do with the wiretapping. So has there been no response yet to that?
MR. SNOW: Well, keep in mind, that is a one-day old request and, furthermore, it is not due for some time. But let's just say it's an outrageous request. What you have is a program that was briefed to members of Congress. Members of Congress were kept fully informed all along the route, as well as on the legal justifications and the legal findings behind them. At this juncture, we don't have a formal reply, but on the other hand, it is pretty clear that, again, members of Congress here are engaged in an attempt -- apparently since they have been unsuccessful in passing key legislation -- to try to do what they can to make life difficult for the White House.
It also may explain why this is the least popular Congress in decades, because you do have what appears to be a strategy of destruction, rather than cooperation. We've made it clear that we are willing to share information with Congress so that they can do their jobs, but on the other hand, we think it is essential, as a matter of principle, to protect the prerogatives of the presidency, especially when it comes to being able to have privileged and confidential communications with key staff members and key executive branch officials.
Q: Tony, the arguments made by Fielding in the letter would apply also to this later request, right?
MR. SNOW: The Fielding letter replies only to the document requests -- again, for those they needed a response today. There is an additional one where I believe Chairman Conyers, in the case of Harriet Miers, has a July 12th date. The President has instructed both Sara Taylor and Harriet Miers -- that is, their attorneys -- that he is asserting privilege and would want them to withhold any document production.
Q: What about their testimony?
Q: Yes, what does that mean for testimony?
MR. SNOW: That's not one of the issues that's raised by the subpoenas today.
Q: It's raised by their subpoenas, though -- they've issued subpoenas.
MR. SNOW: Well, again, we aren't talking about the subpoenas -- I'm simply discussing -- I'm not going to talk about testimony. I'm telling you what we are responding right now to the request for document production. That is what is in the subpoenas, but we're responding --
MR. SNOW: Because what we're doing is we're responding to the precise subpoenas that we're responding to today. They are only request for document production; that's what we're responding to.
Q: Does that mean that you'll respond --
Q: For instance, is there a difference, though, as a principle --
MR. SNOW: It doesn't mean anything. It just means --
Q: Does it mean you'll respond at a later date, or does it mean that you're willing to let them testify?
MR. SNOW: It means that when we have subpoenas -- we will respond to subpoenas appropriately and in due course, and that's what we've done in this case. Again, the subpoenas we're talking about today do not refer to testimony, they refer to document production.
Q: Does that mean that the White House has given no instruction to Sara and to Harriet on whether they should agree to testify or not?
MR. SNOW: It's in Fred's letter. We have informed them that the President is asserting executive privilege and that they should not turn over documents.
Q: I understand. That wasn't my question. My question is what has the White House instructed them to do, in terms of testimony?
MR. SNOW: The White House is not instructing them. You can ask their attorneys.*
Q: So they're free to testify if they want?
MR. SNOW: I'm not going any further. Again, I know you want to talk about testimony. We're talking about document production today.
Q: But that doesn't mean we limit our questions only to documents.
MR. SNOW: I understand that, but I am limiting my answers to documents.
Q: Why is there a distinction? That's what everybody is trying to get at.
MR. SNOW: Because what you're trying to do is to draw in issues that are not before White House legal counsel today.
Q: Why are they not before them today?
MR. SNOW: Because in the subpoenas there are document requests, and we're responding to that specific request from the House and Senate Judiciary Committees.
Q: But the subpoenas came the same day, though; they all were issued the same day.
MR. SNOW: They have different dates in which they are supposed to be produced, that is responded to --
Q: -- outrageous request, you responding to the --
MR. SNOW: TSP.
Q: And the answer to that is, no -- the answer is no to subpoenas and the formal letter will follow?
MR SNOW: No, I'm just telling you what our reaction is to what appeared to be a bit of showmanship yesterday.
Q: In the Iraq speech today, will the President make reference to what Senator Lugar said, either explicitly or implicitly; try to answer what --
MR SNOW: What the President is going to do, as I said, is give you an update on what's been going on in Iraq. Whether that can be construed as responding explicitly or not, this is not a speech that was written for Senator Lugar. This is a speech that has been in the drafting for a considerable period of time, and will give people an update; a sense of what's going on in Diyala and Anbar and in Baghdad, as well as the Iraqi response to the latest al Qaeda provocation with the Golden Mosque of Samarra, because obviously that was a pivotal event in 2006. We're going to tell you how the Iraqis have responded and what they've learned this time.
Q: Can I just clear -- I think there's a little bit of a contradiction in two things you said. First you said that in terms of the testimony, that that issue was not in the fore of the Office of the Counsel yet; they're not dealing with that issue yet. And then you said later, you don't instruct them on whether to testify or not. Those are saying two different things.
MR. SNOW: Well, again -- you know what, I was confused because I was responding to the document request. (Laughter.) So to your original answer, I was actually answering a question about documents. So thank you. And I'm not going to talk about any conversations they may be having.
Q: On immigration, is the administration growing more concerned that the cloture will fail?
MR. SNOW: Well, we'll find out. I mean, there's going to be a vote within an hour or so. We'll find out what's going on.
Q: I mean, is he on the phone on the plane, or has he done anything this morning?
MR. SNOW: Well, we have been in contact with members of Congress over the last couple of days, and the President has made it clear that this is very important to him. This is an issue that everybody agrees is of national importance, and therefore it is a key test of leadership to see if Congress can respond to something that the public has said overwhelmingly it considers a priority and needs addressing.
Q: Why not make clear who he's talking to and when? I mean, if it's so important to him, isn't he willing to say publicly how hard he's trying to get it -- make it happen?
MR. SNOW: Because we don't choose to share that information. It doesn't matter.
Q: Sure it does.
MR. SNOW: Okay, well, I'm not answering it.
Q: What he's doing for the two hours between the end of the speech and his departure? Families of the fallen?
MR. SNOW: Yes.
Q: Anything else?
Q: Any recreation plans this afternoon that you know of?
MR. SNOW: I don't know. I'm hoping to have some, but I don't know. (Laughter.)
Q: We're concerned about you, but we were really asking about him. (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: I don't know if he has any. I suspect he does, but on the other hand, there's a lot of stuff going on today, so business before pleasure.
Q: Who all is traveling, other than Hagin? I didn't see any --
MR SNOW: You know, I don't know who -- I'll have to take a look at who's going on to Kennebunkport. I'll be going to Kennebunkport, I know Joe is; Phil Lago; Brent McIntosh, of the Staff Sec's Office.
Q: Is there any special, separate briefing tomorrow on Putin's visit?
MR. SNOW: Well, we won't have a separate briefing of it, but obviously we'll be making ourselves available tomorrow.
Q: Is it on background or is it going to be --
MR. SNOW: Well, there was a backgrounder yesterday by a Senior Administration Official.
Q: Are you going to brief tomorrow or just be around or --
MR. SNOW: We'll figure it out. I don't know yet.
Q: There's a lot going on.
MR. SNOW: Well, if there is, we'll get out.
Q: Okay. Good.
MR. SNOW: So, we'll certainly plan on trying to get out -- do a briefing tomorrow, but --
MR. SNOW: No. They've got plenty of things to do back home, including swim meets and so on, unfortunately. I wish they were going to be here.
Q: Do you have any more about what the program will be of the Presidents this weekend, because yesterday they were sort of a vague, well, they'll be meeting but there's not a specific --
MR. SNOW: No, it's really not a program. Again, you're having conversations between the two Presidents. This is a chance for them to talk about a whole bunch of stuff. They'll do it, but again, we tried to make it clear -- you know, don't expect communiqu s and formal announcements and that kind of thing. This is a chance for them to continue a personal relationship that's valuable, not only because of the importance of the two countries but also the candor and respect with which they conduct their conversations.
Q: Will the former President sit in any discussions or --
MR. SNOW: I don't think so. I know that's been asked and I haven't had a good answer for it. I'll try to find out, but I don't think so.
Q: How close is that civilian nuclear deal?
MR. SNOW: Don't know yet. I mean, that's -- I'll go ask Candi what she thinks.
Q: Did the First Lady get in? She's coming in, right?
MR. SNOW: Do you know when the First Lady gets in?
MR. DECKARD: I believe tonight. She comes in tomorrow. But I'll double-check and get you that.
MR. SNOW: Yes, we'll get back when we get the schedule.
Q: Mrs. Putin is not here; she's not coming?
MR. SNOW: I don't believe so. Keep in mind, he's on his way to South America. This is -- he's sort of stopping here on the way through.
* * * * *
MR. SNOW: Very quickly, again, if you take a look at Fred's letter today, we are responding to the request for documents. We are not discussing requests for testimony. What, again, we are trying to do is to try to preserve the prerogatives of the presidency, the confidentiality of advice to the President; but we also think that it's important to try to work in a spirit of accommodation, which we have been attempting to do. And we hope that Congress will choose in time to do the same thing.
There you go. That's it. Thank you. Thank you very much.
Q: -- least popular Congress, that's only --
MR. SNOW: No, no -- that's right, that is correct.
MR. SNOW: But there's a good way to recover the public faith. There's a good way to recover public faith, which is to show an ability to work constructively with the White House, rather than destructively.
Q: You went up there and realized you forgot the nice part? (Laughter.)
MR. SNOW: No, no, no, no. No, I wanted to be precise because there was a request for -- I wanted to be precise on how we deal with documents and testimony.
Q: Thank you.
END 10:24 A.M. EDT
*The President has not today formally asserted Executive Privilege as to testimony by Ms. Miers and Ms. Taylor. However, as reflected in the Department of Justice's advice, the legal principle is clear: the President may properly assert executive privilege over their testimony on the US Attorneys matter, just as he has done for subpoenaed documents. Accordingly, if Congress continues to reject the President's offer of accommodation, the President intends to assert Executive Privilege over the testimony and direct Ms. Miers and Ms. Taylor not to provide testimony, consistent with his instruction covering the documents.
Tony Snow, Press Gaggle by Tony Snow Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/275868