For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
April 20, 2004
Press Gaggle by Scott McClellan
Aboard Air Force One
En route Buffalo, New York
8:55 A.M. EDT
MR. McCLELLAN: All right. The President had his usual briefings before we departed. Just a short time ago the President was pleased to receive a phone call from President Aznar. President Aznar called the President to express his regret about the decision to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. The President discussed the straightforward conversation he had yesterday with President Zapatero. And the two leaders also said they looked forward to seeing each other in the near -- seeing each other in the future. And that was the conversation.
Upon arrival in Buffalo the Freedom Corps greeter is Frank Brusino. And Frank is -- Mr. Brusino, B-r-u-s-i-n-o -- after hearing the President's call to service in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks, recruited 10 volunteers to help form the Grand Island Citizen corps Council to prepare and protect his community for emergencies.
Following that, the President looks forward to participating in a conversation on the Patriot Act, to highlight his commitment to making the Patriot Act permanent. And the conversation participants include Larry Thompson, the former Deputy Attorney General; Mike Battle, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, who was instrumental in the investigation and prosecution of the Lackawanna Six terrorist cell in Buffalo --
Q Could you spell his name, please?
MR. McCLELLAN: -- Buffalo, New York. B-a-t-t-l-e.
Q U.S. Attorney?
Q Are you sure there's an "E" on the end? I thought it was --
MR. McCLELLAN: That's what I have. We'll get you this information, as well.
Q U.S. Attorney for?
MR. McCLELLAN: For the Western District of New York.
Q He prosecuted the Lackawanna Six?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes. He was instrumental in the investigation and prosecution of the Lackawanna Six. And we'll get you all this information on paper.
And then Pete Ahearn, who is the Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo Field Office; Jim Mahon, the Director, office of Public Security for the State of New York; and the Chief of Police of Amherst, New York, John Moslow. Those are the participants.
And then following that, we go to New York. Oh, and I'm sorry, the guests will include first responders, local officials and community leaders at the event. Following that, we go to New York, where the President makes remarks at a Victory 2004 reception. And then this evening, when he returns to the White House, the President will meet over in the residence with Republican House and Senate leaders to discuss legislative priorities. This is part of the usual post-recess meeting.
Q Is it bipartisan?
MR. McCLELLAN: It's Republican, House and Senate leaders.
And that's all I've got.
Q Do you have any numbers for tonight, how much money they're going to raise?
MR. McCLELLAN: I would check with the RNC.
Q Did the President talk to the leader of Honduras, President Maduro, at all, that you're aware of?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Did the President talk to President Maduro?
MR. McCLELLAN: No.
Q Do you know whether he plans to?
MR. McCLELLAN: We always keep you posted on calls, but there's nothing I have at this point.
Q Is the coalition falling apart?
MR. McCLELLAN: Actually, the coalition in Iraq is strong, and we appreciate the numerous recent statements from countries participating in the security -- or participating in security for the Iraqi people who have -- they have reaffirmed their resolve to help the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.
Q Can you name some of those countries?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, from Italy to Japan to Poland and others -- I think Portugal. A number of countries. Remember, there are more than 30 nations who are participating in our efforts in Iraq, and we appreciate the strong statements reaffirming their commitment to helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.
Q Do you expect any other defections?
Q Did Poland reaffirm --
MR. McCLELLAN: We've said, and as Condi said on Sunday and as I think Secretary Powell said yesterday, as well, obviously, countries have to make their own decisions. But we're pleased by the strong statements of continued support for the Iraqi people.
Q Will Poland recommit in September? Have they given you any assurance?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'd let the Polish government speak to that. I also would point out that we're -- we welcome Mr. Brahimi's comments earlier today, saying that -- essentially, that they would be moving forward on a second United Nations Security Council resolution. And he expected that to happen soon. And we welcome a -- I'm sorry, a new resolution. We welcome another resolution that would encourage more countries to participate in our efforts in Iraq.
Q Does the President feel snubbed by King Abdullah?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. Look, we understand that there are some domestic issues involved here. And we respect King Adbullah's decision to postpone it, postpone the meeting for a couple weeks. And we look -- the President looks forward to meeting with him the first week of May.
Q They said it specifically had to do with the President's stand on -- when he was with Sharon, basically agreeing to the -- to allow the Jewish settlements to remain in part of the West Bank. I mean, the right of return --
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we continue to discuss the President's views with Jordanian officials and other Arab nations. And we look forward to talking to those countries about exactly what the President's views are. The President made it very clear that those are issues that would be resolved in final status negotiations between the parties. He simply was talking about -- the President simply talked about how we have to look at the reality on the ground, but that the final status negotiations would be decided by the parties.
Q Scott, it causes you all no concern that the coalition of the willing is rapidly dwindling? We lost --
MR. McCLELLAN: I disagree with that strongly, Jeff. I disagree with that characterization strongly. All you have to do is go and look at some of the comments by countries. You know, we recognize that President Zapatero had made a commitment to withdraw troops previously. Obviously, we've --
Q Honduras today.
Q And Thailand.
MR. McCLELLAN: Honduras was working with some of the Spanish troops in Iraq. But the coalition is more than 30 nations, I would remind you, and the coalition is strong because countries realize that this is about helping the Iraqi people realize a free and peaceful future.
Q But, Scott, this is a time when you would hope to be winning more coalition partners, hence your efforts to go back to the U.N. -- and, yet, we're losing coalition partners.
MR. McCLELLAN: I think that, one, the United Nations is playing a vital role in helping the Iraqi people move forward on the transfer of sovereignty; there's a U.N. mission there helping to move forward on the elections that are scheduled to be held, beginning in January of 2005. I think that on Mr. Brahimi's comments today, that he expects another U.N. resolution to be -- to be passed soon, is a welcome development. We already believe that countries have the ability to participate under existing resolutions, but we welcome another resolution that would encourage more countries to participate because this is about helping the Iraqi people realize their aspirations and hopes.
Q Would the other countries come in and participate? Will they be allowed to bid on contracts for the reconstruction?
MR. McCLELLAN: Those are questions you can direct to the Pentagon. I think we've addressed that, and many countries are participating in the contract process.
Q Scott, EU President Prodi, I guess, praised Spain's decision to pull out their troops and suggested that others will soon follow suit, almost encouraging them to do so. What do you make of those remarks?
MR. McCLELLAN: Italy, Poland and Japan and others have said otherwise; they recognize that this is about helping the Iraqi people realize a brighter future and we're all working toward a shared goal, which is a free and peaceful Iraq.
Q What do you hear from Thailand?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?
Q Have you heard from them directly, that they will pull out, if attacked?
MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with others on that. I don't have any information on that.
Q Scott, with the Honduras announcement, is the President making any calls? What is the White House doing to ensure support, shore up support among the coalition members in Iraq? Or is there anything?
MR. McCLELLAN: Look at the strong statements of support from the coalition. The coalition in Iraq is strong and their resolve is firm.
Q Why has Buffalo been picked for this visit?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, one reason is to highlight how the Patriot Act helped with the -- helped in breaking up the Lackawanna Six terrorist cell in Buffalo. The Patriot Act played an important role in helping to break down the wall between the criminal investigation and the intelligence investigation that was going on there. And I think that the U.S. Attorney there, Mr. Battle, will talk some about that in the conversation.
Q Scott, Senator McCain is calling for congressional hearings on the $700 million that Woodward alleges was diverted from Afghanistan to Iraq. What's your position on hearings?
MR. McCLELLAN: I think the Department of Defense briefed on that yesterday, and pointed out that that simply was not the case. Congress was kept informed and the funding, the emergency funding from the -- the emergency funding gave the Pentagon broad discretion in how funds were used. And they also pointed out that the funding specifically for Iraq came after the resolution that Congress passed. And Congress was kept fully informed of the funding.
We've got to go. Thanks.
END 9:06 A.M. EDT