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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
October 3, 2006
Press Gaggle by Dana Perino
Aboard Air Force One
En route Los Angeles, California
3:41 A.M. PDT
MS. PERINO: Sorry that we're getting together so late in the afternoon. We have one remaining event tonight in Los Angeles, and then we will go to Scottsdale, Arizona, and remain overnight there.
One thing that the President is -- an update to his schedule is, he is getting an update right now from -- on the wildfire situation and the activity in California. USDA Forest Service personnel, a representative from the private sector and a local government representative. I'll see if I can get you those names. I just want to make sure that they're the right ones. This is going to update him on the wildfire activity that's happening. I understand that most of the fires are contained now, but certainly California and many other Western states, including Texas and Oklahoma, had quite a year with the wildfire situation.
And with that, I'll take your questions.
Q Has the President spoken with Hastert at all in the last couple days?
MS. PERINO: To my knowledge, he has not.
Q Why has he not spoken with Denny Hastert, and also, what are his feelings about some of these calls for the Speaker's resignation over this?
MS. PERINO: I think you heard from the President today, in which he said that he wants to know all the facts, and he knows that the Speaker wants to know all the facts; the Speaker called for the investigation, the President supports that and one is underway. And so let's let that play out. The administration and the White House has regular contact with the Speaker's office, just the President hasn't spoken to him in the last few days.
Q There's been a lot of push-back from the religious right today, calling for Hastert's resignation. Is the White House doing any outreach to religious groups, any consultations trying to get a sense of why they're so upset about this?
MS. PERINO: I'm not aware of any, no. I'm not even aware of what you just said. I don't believe that we're undertaking anything at the White House, no.
Q Does the White House think that the Democrats leaked this information because of the election?
MS. PERINO: I wouldn't ascribe a political motivation to anyone in particular, in terms of this very serious situation. I think what the American public would not stand for is -- or not put up with -- what the American public would not put up with is taking a serious issue, such as this one, with the, as the President called it, disgusting communications between the former congressman and this former page, and using that for political gamesmanship during the course of an investigation.
So I'm not going to ascribe political motivation as to how this information came to light, but that's all probably part of the investigation, as well, in terms of the investigators talking to the pages, et cetera.
Q But you're not suggesting that it was.
MS. PERINO: I am not suggesting that it was, no. I'll let other people -- other people can come to their own conclusions. The Speaker has called for an investigation and I think that's the appropriate place to be. These are really serious allegations. You heard the President talk today about how disgusted he was by it, and I think most Americans agree with that. So I think we need to let the investigation play out.
Q How concerned is the President that this is going to negatively affect Republicans in the November elections?
MS. PERINO: I haven't heard him describe it that way at all. The President is focused on criss-crossing the country, as you've seen, today with -- well, in the last two days, three events, one more to go tonight, and then two more tomorrow. So the President has got his eye on the ball.
Q I just wanted to ask, the FBI said that it had got some of the emails -- a non-profit group gave it to them earlier this summer. Is the President concerned that they didn't investigate it at that time?
MS. PERINO: I think that that is all going to be a part of the investigation. I've only read reports about that. I don't have any independent information about it.
Q Just so we're clear, the President didn't bring up the resignation. What's the White House position on Hastert resigning at this point, absolutely not?
MS. PERINO: What I said is, you should look at what the President said, is that he wants to have all the facts; he would appreciate -- that Speaker Hastert wants to have all the facts. There's an investigation underway, so let's let that play out.
Q But that doesn't sound like you're backing Speaker Hastert a hundred percent against resigning.
MS. PERINO: I think you heard from the President today as a voice of support for Speaker Hastert and that there's an investigation underway, and we'll let that investigation play out.
Q Dana, did you address a question here as to how this might be interfering with the message that he is attempting to focus on, which is national security, contrasting the Democrats versus the Republicans? Is this getting in the way at a very critical time?
MS. PERINO: I think I understood your question. As I said, the President's concentration has been on these fundraisers where he has delivered a message showing the philosophical choices that the American voters have to make this November, especially as it comes to the economy and to the global war on terror. And the President has his eye on the ball as it comes to campaigning, and he's going to continue to criss-cross the country, and there will be some aggressive traveling over the next -- I guess it's 35 days now to go, until the end of the midterm election season.
Q Foley's staff gave the President $2,000 back in 2003. Is the President intending to give that money back?
MS. PERINO: I believe that the RNC answered this question earlier to your organization. I understand that was for a primary, and that campaign had been closed out a while ago, so I don't know if that money is there to give back, it was from I think 2002 or 2003, I'm not exactly sure.
Q Do you have any more on the speech tomorrow?
MS. PERINO: It will be similar to the one today. I don't have too much new on that. But I'll see if I can get a final copy, but I believe it will be similar to the two that you heard this morning and this afternoon.
Q And the bill, you don't know anything more about the bill that he's going to --
MS. PERINO: It's DHS approps.
Q The bill is money for the fence, and a lot of Democrats are saying that the President caved in terms of not getting guest worker at this point. How quickly does he want to return to a guest worker plan?
MS. PERINO: The President has said several times, even during this last few, couple weeks, as the final appropriations bill was going through the process, that a bill that addresses some of the border security measures is not a substitute for a comprehensive immigration reform bill. And he is going to continue to push for one. Border security is a critical component to the President's comprehensive reform plan, and you've seen what we've done over the past -- over the past several months, getting the National Guard down to the border, and other measures.
Some things that are in this DHS approps bill are ones that we're in our budget and that we can support. So in no way does this take the place of the comprehensive bill that the President has called for.
Q Has he talked to any other Republican leadership, members of the Republican leadership about Foley?
MS. PERINO: Not that I'm aware of.
Okay? Let me see if -- one second. I'm going to go ahead and just make sure that the people that I have on this list are the ones who -- are actually on the plane, doing the briefing for the President. And I'll get you those names. Okay? Thanks.
END 3:49 P.M. PDT