Harry S. Truman photo

The President's News Conference

April 03, 1952

THE PRESIDENT [reading]. [1.] A current issue of a weekly news magazine contains an article which states that certain officials have voiced criticism regarding the ability of the United Nations truce team at Panmunjon. I wish to make it perfectly clear that the responsible officials of this Government, and myself in particular, have complete and unequivocal confidence in the integrity and competence of our negotiators. They are doing a splendid job.

[2.] The Attorney General1 has resigned.

[Exclamations of surprise]

1 J. Howard McGrath served as Attorney General from August 24, 1949, to April 7, 1952.

And James P. McGranery, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, will take his place.2

2James P. McGranery was sworn in as Attorney General on May 27, 1952.

Q. U.S. District Judge, Eastern District?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. He is one of the judges for the eastern district. There are several.

Q. James P.?

THE PRESIDENT. James P. McGranery. And the program will be carried on by the Attorney General from now on.

Q. You are speaking of the corruption cleanup--

THE PRESIDENT. Yes--

Q.-- investigation?

THE PRESIDENT.--the investigation cleanup.

Q. Mr. President, would you continue to support the Chelf3 subcommittee investigating McGrath as a private citizen after he leaves office?

THE PRESIDENT. That is up to them--I don't run those congressional committees. They run themselves--much to my regret.

3 Representative Frank L. Chelf of Kentucky, chairman of a special subcommittee of the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Q. Mr. President, did Mr. McGrath fire Morris 4 with your knowledge and approval?

THE PRESIDENT. I Saw it in the paper.

4 Newbold Morris, who had been serving as Special Assistant to the Attorney General to probe Federal corruption, was dismissed by Attorney General McGrath on April 3, 1952.

Q. That's the first you saw--

Q. Will you repeat your answer?

THE PRESIDENT. I saw that in the paper.

Q. I take it, Mr. President, that you didn't know about it before Mr.--

THE PRESIDENT. It was under discussion, but I wasn't consulted when it was done.

Q. Mr. President, were you consulted before it was done, sir?

THE PRESIDENT. They talked to me about it--I was talked to about it, but I made no suggestion or--

[3.] Q. One more thing, Mr. President, could you, or are you willing to clear up what went on at the airport yesterday?5

THE PRESIDENT. What?

5The reporter referred to a conversation which took place between the President and Attorney General McGrath while they were waiting at the Washington National Airport to welcome Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and her husband Prince Bernhard.

Q. What was the discussion that took place at the airport between you and--

THE PRESIDENT. That is a private conversation, and it will not be quoted by me.

Q. Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. Let the lady speak. Be polite just once. [Laughter]

[4.] Q. Mr. President, why was Mr. Morris fired? Do you think his dismissal

was justified?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer the question.

Q. Mr. President, did you ask the Attorney General to resign ?

THE PRESIDENT. The Attorney General resigned just now.

Q. Mr. President, do you intend to reinstate Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question. I have got a new Attorney General.

Q. Will you ask the new Attorney General, sir, to reinstate Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. The new Attorney General will have a free hand.

Q. Mr. President, will you tell us why Mr. McGrath resigned?

THE PRESIDENT. Because he wanted to. The best reason I know. [Laughter] I think that's the best answer you can get.

Q. Mr. President, do you have a letter from Mr. McGrath? If you do, could you tell us what is in it?

THE PRESIDENT. No. I can't--to either question.

Q. May I ask another question? I wonder what is your opinion of the celebrated questionnaire6 of Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. I have never seen one, so I can't answer a question like that.

6 Newbold Morris was reported to have given questionnaires on personal affairs to employees of the Justice Department as a part of his investigatory procedure.

Q. Mr. President, did the Attorney General resign to you in person, or by telephone, or how?

THE PRESIDENT. By telephone.

Q. Mr. President, would you clarify for me how you heard of Mr. Morris' being discharged?

THE PRESIDENT. Saw it in the paper.

Q. The first you had heard?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes--on the ticker--that's where I saw it.

Q. Mr. President, when will Mr. McGranery--Judge McGranery take over?

THE PRESIDENT. As quickly as possible.

Q. Mr. President, had it been decided that Mr. McGrath would resign before he fired Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to answer that question.

Q. Were the two events connected?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to answer that question.

Q. Mr. President, did we understand you to say that the dismissal of Mr. Morris was under discussion, but that you weren't aware of the--

THE PRESIDENT. The fact that it was going to take place right away.

Q. Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. What is it?

Q. "As quickly as possible"--does that mean tonight or tomorrow, or--

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I have got to send his name down to the Congress, and they will have to act on it.

Q. Oh, I see.

THE PRESIDENT. I don't know how long that will take.

Q. Just as soon as he can be approved?

THE PRESIDENT. AS Soon as he is confirmed.

Q. Did you call up Mr. McGranery today?

THE PRESIDENT. I talked to him, yes.

Q. That was what I was about to ask, when you first talked to Mr. McGranery?

THE PRESIDENT. About an hour and a half ago. I don't believe it was quite that long, was it, Joe?7

Mr. Short: That's right, sir.

7Joseph H. Short, Secretary to the President.

Q. Mr. President, did Mr. McGrath give you any indication why he was resigning?

THE PRESIDENT. He resigned. [Laughter]

Q. He resigned by telephone. Did you make the call, or did he, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer that question.

Q. Mr. President, could I ask you whether you bad any reason to be dissatisfied with Mr. Morris' work?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't answer the question.

Q. Mr. President, did you talk to Mr. McGrath before or after you talked to Mr. McGranery?

THE PRESIDENT. Before.

Q. You talked to Mr. McGrath before. Thank you.

Q. Mr. President, do I understand that the dismissal of Mr, Morris does stick?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter for the Attorney General to handle. The Attorney General appointed him and the Attorney General brought him down to Washington. It is up to the Attorney General to decide what to do with him.

Edward T. Folliard (Washington Post):

Mr. President, one more question--

THE PRESIDENT. All right.

Q.--this organization that Morris has set up down in the old Washington Post Building--[Laughter]

Q. I knew he was going to plug that.

Q. I just wonder whether that would continue in existence?

THE PRESIDENT. That is up to the Attorney General.

Q. Yes, sir. Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT. I am glad you gave a plug for the Washington Post. [Laughter]

Q. Mr. President, there is a technicality involved in the resignation of Mr. Morris. Mr. McGrath asked Mr. Morris to send his files back to the FBI. Now, do the files go back to the FBI, or do they remain with Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. They will remain in the charge of the Attorney General. They are his files no matter what happens.

Q. Mr. President, I don't want to belabor this point, but could I ask you this question? Was McGrath's resignation voluntary?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes. A resignation is always voluntary.

Q. Was the matter of Mr. McGrath's resignation discussed at your conference with him yesterday?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't want to discuss that.

Q. Are you about to draft the usual letter?

THE PRESIDENT- We'll see about that.

Q. Mr. President, is it your intention to bring J. Edgar Hoover of the FBI directly into the investigation?

THE PRESIDENT. They have always been in it.

Q. Mr. President, would you have any objection to the retention or the rehiring of Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. That is a matter for the Attorney General to settle, and that will be the new Attorney General.

Q. Mr. President, has the prospective Attorney General indicated how he feels ward Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. I haven't discussed the matter with him.

Q. Will the new Attorney General be down tomorrow, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. I can't say. I don't think he will come down until he winds up his judicial affairs, and until he is confirmed by the Senate.

Q. Mr. President, have you talked to Mr. Morris since he has been fired?

THE PRESIDENT. No.

Q. Sir, did you tell the new Attorney General that one of his first tasks would be a decision with respect to Mr. Morris?

THE PRESIDENT. No. That is up to him.

Q. Mrs. May Craig of the Portland (Maine) Press Herald: Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. You are kind of tangled up, aren't you, May? [Laughter] Now, come on and ask your question.

Mrs. Craig: Well, sir, I am.

THE PRESIDENT. All right--I'm sorry.

Mrs. Craig: Because we understood that Mr. Morris was your man to conduct it, and now he is fired. You don't tell us whether it is, in your opinion, a justifiable dismissal. It leaves Mr. Morris under a cloud.

THE PRESIDENT. Mr. Morris was brought down here by the Attorney General. He was hired by the Attorney General, and the Attorney General fired him. Now, that's all there is to it, May.

Mrs. Craig: Then we were wrong--

THE PRESIDENT. And I have got a new Attorney General.

Mrs. Craig: --in thinking he was your man?

THE PRESIDENT. He was not my man. Never was.

Q. The Attorney General--

[5.] Q. Mr. President--

THE PRESIDENT. Go ahead now. You want to talk Missouri politics?

Q. Missouri politics.

THE PRESIDENT. That's all right. [Laughter] I can talk "faster" about that.

Q. We have information in St. Louis that General Vaughan8 has telephoned Missouri Democratic leaders, asking them what they think about your running for the Senate. Did you know he was doing that?

THE PRESIDENT. General Vaughan didn't do that.

8 Maj. Gen. Harry H. Vaughan, Military Aide to the President.

Q. What did he do?

THE PRESIDENT. He didn't do anything.

Q. Our information--

THE PRESIDENT. He didn't do anything, Pete.9

9 Raymond P. Brandt of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Q. He didn't make calls from the White House to the Missouri Democrats?

THE PRESIDENT. No, some of them may have called him, but he never called any of them.

Q. No

THE PRESIDENT. You are talking about the Post-Dispatch's attitude toward General Vaughan, and it isn't the right one.

Q. No, that's not it. Our primary interest is whether you are going to run for the Senate from Missouri this year.

THE PRESIDENT. Well now, if it will help the situation, I am not.

Q. You are not going to run for the Senate ?

THE PRESIDENT. I shall not be a candidate for the United States Senate from Missouri. [Laughter] That satisfies you, doesn't it?

Q. It does.

Q. Mr. President, how about the House of Representatives? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. Same answer.

[6.] Q. Mr. President, whom will you support for the Senate?

THE PRESIDENT. What? I will tell you that when it comes time for me to vote in the primary, I will tell you the person for whom I will vote.

Q. Not until then, Mr. President?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, it will be time enough then.

Q. Mr. Symington10 told a number of us when he called on you, that he would not run unless he got the green light from you.

THE PRESIDENT. I gave no one a green light.

10W. Smart Symington, former Administrator of the Reconstruction finance Corporation and candidate for the Democratic nomination for Senator from Missouri.

Q. Now, could I ask one more question?

THE PRESIDENT. Yes, sir.

[7.] Q. Do you intend to go back to Independence?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly. That's my home.

Q. Could you tell us what you hope to do in your leisure time?

THE PRESIDENT. I have got a lot of things I expect to do, and I think they will all be for the welfare of the country. I am going to try my best to continue to fight for peace in the world, and for the welfare of the people of the United States as a whole.

Q. Will you do any lecturing or writing?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I will cross that river when I get to it. I am not talented in that direction. [Laughter] You can never tell what a man can do.

[8.] Q. Mr. President, do you have any comment on Senator Humphrey's bill for the disposition of ex-Presidents? [Laughter]

THE PRESIDENT. How does he want to dispose of them? Does he want to put them in the river?

I made a suggestion one time that it would be a grand thing if ex-Presidents and ex-Vice Presidents could have the freedom of the floor of the House and the Senate to talk, but not to vote. Is that the bill?

Q. That's right.

THE PRESIDENT. Well, I am in favor of it.

[9.] Q. Mr. President, turning to another resignation, do you have a successor chosen for Mr. Charles E. Wilson? 11

THE PRESIDENT. No, not at the present time. I will announce it when the time comes.

11Charles E. Wilson resigned as Director, Office of Defense Mobilization, effective March 31, 1952 (see Item 70).

[10.] Q. Can you tell us your plans in the steel situation?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment.

[11.] Q. Mr. President, if we are off the Missouri politics for a minute--

THE PRESIDENT. No. We are not, I hope.

Q. I just wonder whether--do you favor Governor Stevenson12 for the Democratic nomination?

THE PRESIDENT. No comment. I said that this would be a free convention. And it will be.

12 Governor Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois.

[12.] Q. Do you still intend to appoint an Ambassador to the Vatican, and if so, do you have any idea how soon?

THE PRESIDENT. I am not ready to answer that question.

Reporter. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: President Truman's two hundred and ninety-eighth news conference was held in the Indian Treaty Room (Room 474) in the Executive Office Building at 4 p.m. on Thursday, April 3, 1952.

Harry S. Truman, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231597

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