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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
December 28, 2005
Press Gaggle by Trent Duffy
Crawford Middle School
12:00 P.M. CST
MR. DUFFY: Good morning. One update to the President's schedule to inform you about. The President, on Sunday, January 1st, will visit the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he will visit with wounded soldiers. We anticipate that most will be from Iraq. There may be others, and we'll update you on that at a future point.
The President had his normal intelligence and daily briefings this morning, and was out clearing brush. And that's what I have on his schedule. And that's what I have.
Q Any update on the Patriot Act? Patriot Act extension, any update on that?
MR. DUFFY: No updates on bill signings. We'll let you know when he's doing any of that.
Q Do you expect any other White House aides to come down to the ranch later this week for things like planning purposes, speeches?
MR. DUFFY: Nothing to announce at this point, Roger. If there are, we'll let you know.
Q Can you repeat the question?
Q What aides were coming down.
MR. DUFFY: What other White House staff are coming down later in the week.
Q The New York Times reports today that there are several legal challenges based on the NSA wiretaps. Are you concerned that these challenges could jeopardize the cases against people you guys have already described as very bad people?
MR. DUFFY: Jessica, I think Attorney General Gonzales and General Hayden did a very thorough briefing about the legal underpinnings that the administration is basing this program on. I don't have anything to add to that. And we decline to comment on any pending cases, but I don't think it should serve as any surprise that defense attorneys are looking at ways to represent their clients; that's what defense attorneys do.
Q Changing topics, whatever happened with the Crawford jury duty, since we're here? Do you have any update on that?
MR. DUFFY: The last I recall, the President's attorney was working to have that postponed until some later date. And I can see if there's any update on that. But I think it was -- I think they were looking for a postponement after a period of months, and perhaps years.
Q That same New York Times article says, there's consideration of filing criminal charges against President Bush, himself. Is he prepared to face any possible charges, and what kind of -- the White House must have some sort of reaction to the concern that this could bring this NSA issue into the court and open it up to all sorts of inquiries.
MR. DUFFY: I'd just leave it just where I said, Jessica. The Attorney General, himself, the administration's top legal eagle, explained the legal underpinnings that the administration is basing this program on. And I don't have anything to add to that. We always decline to comment on pending cases. You're asking me to speculate about what may happen in the future, and that's another area where we shy away from.
Q Are you making preparations in the Legal Counsel's Office to defend this in court?
MR. DUFFY: I don't know how to answer that question. So I won't.
Q Do you think, though, that the lawyers -- or more specifically, their clients, have a right to know how their cases came to be, and if --
MR. DUFFY: Dana, you're asking in the context of pending cases, and we're just prohibited from commenting on that. So speculating on pending cases is something we can't do.
Q You all have talked about cases that are up before the courts before. Just in general, can you say how hard the administration is going to fight the defense lawyers?
MR. DUFFY: I would refer you to the Justice Department for any questions like that.
Q The President publicly acknowledged the NSA wiretapping in his Saturday radio address. But in subsequent news revelations about perhaps broader surveillance, he's chosen not to acknowledge that. Why the difference?
MR. DUFFY: The President discussed what he felt comfortable discussing in the news conference, and this is a highly classified, or was a highly classified program and he felt it necessary to discuss that since it was reported. And that's the decision that he made and the administration made.
Q How long does the intelligence briefing take in the morning, roughly? And once that's done, is his presidential work done for the day? Is he taking calls of any kind? Is he still doing official reading, or is he on his own reading list, and is it on to pleasure reading after that briefing is over?
MR. DUFFY: Each day is different, and each briefing is different. The briefings can take anywhere from one to two or three hours, depending on the subject matter. I don't know about today's briefing, which I read out, the duration of each. As far as the rest of his activities, the President is the President 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as we all know, wherever he goes. And as far as calls and other presidential activities, we would read those out as necessary and appropriate.
Q The President had, obviously, a bad couple of months. And I'm wondering how a vacation like this kind of plays into that? Is a vacation like this a time to reflect on the bad stuff that has happened in the administration? What function does a vacation have after just the spate of bad news, be it polls or just a whole variety of things?
MR. DUFFY: Well, it might not shock you to hear we might have a different view. The year ended on a pretty strong note, with 10 million Iraqis going to the polls and electing a permanent government. We've got some extremely strong economic data and tremendous job creation for the American people. And as the President said, as far as the economy goes, the outlook for the economy is very strong and the horizon is very bright.
I think the President uses this time, as many Americans do, to look back and to look forward, as we discussed yesterday. He does have the State of the Union coming up and he'll be thinking about what he wants to tell the American people as far as the state of the union and how it is strong. And he also uses the time to reflect. So I guess that's how I'd answer your question.
Q Does the President have any plans at all to address any of the folks who are protesting outside the ranch? And also, what would be his reaction, or is there any White House reaction, to their calling on him to reflect on his Christian faith in dealings in Iraq and in efforts to bring troops home?
MR. DUFFY: The American people have a right to protest, and the right of free speech is something that we're fighting for in this war on terror, to preserve that right of free speech. So the President welcomes opinions from all Americans.
Q So he won't go out there and address them, or has no plans at all to --
MR. DUFFY: I think the President has spoken directly and publicly to the American people about why he made the decisions that he did, why it's the right thing for us to finish the job in Iraq, and why it would be a terrible, terrible thing to retreat in the face of terrorism, because it would essentially provide great relief and a victory for the terrorists.
Jessica, number three.
Q Will his daughters be coming down for New Year's Eve?
MR. DUFFY: What's that?
Q Will his daughters be coming down anytime before New Year's Eve?
MR. DUFFY: I'll let you know. I don't know.
Q And can you give -- share with us his New Year's Resolutions?
MR. DUFFY: I will see.
Q Trent, on the bill signing, it's not a question about if, it's just when he's going to sign? He's definitely going to sign the Patriot Act extension before year's end, right?
MR. DUFFY: That's correct.
Q And so you're deciding whether to do it as an event, or just let us know that he signed it?
MR. DUFFY: Well, as you know, typically, it takes some paperwork and getting the actual bills down here for him to actually sign. So it's just a matter of logistics.
Q I wanted any White House reaction on the Israeli Intelligence Agency's Chief assertion to the Knesset today, saying that Iran will have the capability to build a bomb in the next two years.
MR. DUFFY: I haven't seen those comments. I think that the administration's views on Iran having a nuclear weapon are very well-known. We, along with the international community, believe that it is a terrible thing for Iran to develop a nuclear capability, and the United States is working with the international community to ensure that that does not happen.
Q What is your reaction to the calls for re-run of the election in Iraq? And are you concerned that the Sunnis might not be willing to take part in the future government?
MR. DUFFY: I think, so far, the views on the elections in Iraq have been very positive, both by the United Nations, as well as other observers. And so, at this point, I don't think anybody is suggesting that -- I don't think most are suggesting that there needs to be a rerun because it is the belief that the elections were fair. And that is our view, as well. We welcome the process underway to build a permanent government in Iraq, because that is part of the President's vision on the tracks that he laid out in the past few months, which is that Iraq needs to develop the durable, lasting institutions that will ensure its democracy.
Q Will the President be making any comments in San Antonio, or just privately visiting with the troops?
MR. DUFFY: We'll let you know.
Okay, given that it's -- I'm sorry, Caren.
Q I know you don't want to preview what he's doing, but are the bill signings likely to be public events, or do you think that he'll just sign them at his ranch?
MR. DUFFY: Well I made an announcement about the President's activity on Sunday, so we don't have anything else to announce at this point. But I don't anticipate anything like that. We'll let you know if the schedule changes.
Q Last one. The Ukrainian presidency inferred today that it might ask for U.S. to help in solving the issue of the dispute of the gas with Russia. Do you know anything about this? Have you had any contacts?
MR. DUFFY: I'm personally not. I think that's probably something the State Department will be equipped to comment on at some point, but I'm not aware of that.
Thank you. One programming note: I will -- I'm not planning to gaggle tomorrow, so we'll see you back here on Friday.
Q Are you having fun?
MR. DUFFY: I am having fun. I enjoy this.
END 12:13 P.M. CST
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