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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 20, 2007

Press Gaggle by Tony Snow
Aboard Air Force One
En route Kansas City, Missouri

11:41 A.M. EDT

MR. SNOW: A few notes to start with: As many of you already know, but I'll repeat, the President placed a 7:15 a.m. call this morning to the Attorney General to reaffirm his support for the Attorney General.

This comes in the wake of the Justice Department's release yesterday of 3,000 pages of emails that give a pretty extensive view of the deliberations that led to the decision to replace eight U.S. attorneys. The Attorney General thinks it's important that Congress and the public get a full opportunity to see what went into those deliberations. And the department also has been extremely forthcoming with Congress not only in terms of providing documents that are responsive to the request, including, incidentally, documents that reflect communications between the Justice Department and the White House, but also to make available to investigators or to members of the Hill officials at the Justice Department who were involved that the Hill may want to hear from, and on an on-the-record basis.

Secondly, as you may or may not know, the Vice President has gone to George Washington Hospital this morning. It's on the wires, but I thought you needed to know, as well. He's doing a follow-up for the deep vein thrombosis that occurred during his recent trip to Asia. It is not a scheduled appointment, but it is also not an emergency appointment. It's not scheduled, but also not emergency. And the Vice President's office will have a readout when he returns. I've told you everything I know on that.

As for the President's schedule, we are going to be making a couple of stops today. The focus is the President's energy policy, and in the energy proposal for Congress he's going to challenge Congress to go ahead and get this legislation passed in time for the summer driving season. And the emphasis during the trips today in Missouri and Kansas is to take a good look at some of the cutting-edge technologies that may be promising when it comes to finding alternative ways to fuel automobiles.

We will be taking a look at hybrid vehicles; we'll be taking a look at flex-fuel vehicles, and also those that can be powered by ethanol. This will be both at Ford and General Motors plants.

The first stop will be the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant. The President will go to three stops inside the factory, the motor line; what's called marriage, which is where they connect the body to the chassis; and also chassis display. Then to a Ford Motor Company, Kansas City Assembly Plant. The President will have four stops there: the chassis area, the final inspection area, the customer acceptance inspection area -- the "fit and finish" inspection -- and finally, the President is going to take a look at five different vehicles -- two Ford Escape hybrid SUVs, two flex-fuel Ford F-150s, and a Mercury Mariner. He then will make remarks on his energy initiatives, and we'll head home.


Q Tony, when the President called Attorney General Gonzales, did he assure him that he would remain Attorney General for the rest of the President's term?

MR. SNOW: No, that didn't come up. What he did is he supported -- look, I know it's tempting to try to frame these things. When I answered yesterday, do you know who's going to be at the end of the term, as a cancer survivor, I don't know if I'm going to be alive at the end of this term. So when you try to put together a question about what's going to happen for the two years, you don't know. But does he hope he'll serve through the next two years? Of course.

Q Right, but I don't -- I'm not referring to outside factors, obviously. What I mean is, the President's determination -- when he calls him and gives him a vote of confidence, I'm just trying to get a sense of how strong that was.

MR. SNOW: It was a very strong vote of confidence.

Q Did the Attorney General offer to step down, and did the President not accept it?

MR. SNOW: I don't know that, but I doubt it. That's my sense, but not having been privy to the conversation -- I strongly doubt that's the case. You can direct that to the Attorney General's office, but I don't think so.

Q Is he frustrated at all that the media frenzy might force Al Gonzales to perhaps leave on his own?

MR. SNOW: No. As a matter of fact, I think what you've got now -- I like the fact that you used the term "media frenzy." Now there's an opportunity for people to take a look at 3,000 pages of emails. We were a little disappointed over the weekend when politicians decided to try to draw conclusions about what went on without having seen the evidence. And the Department of Justice has been very forthcoming. This is extraordinary, in providing the internal documents and making available for on-the-record questioning the people who were involved in this. So the Attorney General is being as cooperative as possible, having full confidence that the facts are going to support him.

Q Is the President determined to insist that Gonzales stay on, even as his support on Capitol Hill erodes even among Republicans?

MR. SNOW: Well, I think you need to take a look at what happens over the rest of the day. You're asking yesterday's question, not tomorrow's question. And the point is, you've had two Republicans who have spoken publicly, but now you also have data available. You have evidence available. You have people who have an opportunity to take a good, hard look at the documentary record. Let's see where it goes from there.

Q Does the White House still contend that all of the firings of the prosecutors were performance-based?

MR. SNOW: The White House -- the Justice Department has made its determinations; the White House believes that they're justified.

Q There was no politics involved? Are you still saying that?

MR. SNOW: It depends on how you define politics. But the fact -- these are people who are political appointees; they serve at the pleasure of the President, and the President has the authority and the ability to remove those who serve at his pleasure.

Q In reviewing the emails, or getting briefed on them, does the President still feel that all of the firings were justified?

MR. SNOW: Yes, he does.

Q Does he feel that there were no politics involved in those decisions?

MR. SNOW: Again, "politics" is a term that's used so loosely, I'd rather you be more precise. Let me put it this way: Nobody was removed for reasons of partisan recrimination, nor was anybody removed for purposes of trying to influence the course of ongoing investigations.

Q What about trying to put an associate in a job?

MR. SNOW: You're talking about Tim Griffin?

Q Yes.

MR. SNOW: Tim Griffin is an attorney who had been considered for a prior situation. He was not merely an associate, he was an accomplished attorney and served as Judge Advocate General for a year in Iraq. The President certainly has the authority to put such people into the U.S. Attorney's Office. I'm not going to be your fact witness on all the deliberations that went into that. I'll refer you back to Justice, where you now have an opportunity to look at the documents.

Q Why are the 3,000 emails coming out now? Why weren't they released earlier?

MR. SNOW: Because they weren't available earlier. This is not the sort of thing where you snap your fingers and everything is available. The Department of Justice is at all hands on deck for the last five or six days, going through to look as carefully as they can to produce all the emails that are responsive to the requests. They wanted to be careful about it.

Again, I'd refer you back to them for fuller details on it, but that's -- having had some conversations, or at least representations, I think it's safe to say that they're trying to do a thorough job.

Q All the documents that have been released suggest that whatever mistakes the President has admitted were made were confined to subordinates to Gonzales -- or does the President hold the Attorney General responsible for those mistakes?

MR. SNOW: I think I'm going to let you read the documents rather than having me characterize 3,000 pages. I've not had an opportunity to read them all.

Q In addition to the reports that the White House is seeking replacements for Gonzales, there are also reports that McNulty might go sooner, even.

MR. SNOW: Look, first, the Gonzales reports are just flat false, period. And I know nothing of the McNulty stuff. I think what you've got is gossip that people thought was too juicy not to report. Unfortunately, for the sake of the people who did the reporting, it's false.

Q Are you talking about the rumors from GOP sources that the White House is looking for --

MR. SNOW: Correct. That is correct. The stories that came out late yesterday.

Q -- McNulty, does the President still have full confidence in him?

MR. SNOW: Again, I'm not getting into deputies in the Department of Justice. That is a decision for the Attorney General to make. And the point is, the White House is not calling for the ouster of anybody over there. What the President has said is it's important to make clear to Congress the kinds of considerations that took place, and make sure that they get full and correct information. And that's precisely what the Attorney General and the Department of Justice are trying to do.

Q Tony, to your knowledge, is the Vice President's health condition affecting his schedule, his duties at all?

MR. SNOW: No, no. And this is -- I don't know if you know about the deep vein thrombosis obviously is a serious condition. It's something that you want to make sure you're following up on. I honestly don't know any more than what I've just reported to you. I just got off the phone with his office and they will provide a readout once he gets back from the hospital. So I can't do any speculating on what that means.

Q Do you know how long before he gets back?

MR. SNOW: No, I don't.

Q Do you know for sure that they've disclosed it already?

MR. SNOW: Yes. Yes, I did see one wire report and I went back and confirmed, so it is out on the wires. And again, his office wanted to make sure that you knew it was not an emergency visit, but as I also said, it was not a scheduled visit either.

Q Can I ask you about the automakers? This is the first visit the President has made in his seven years in office to a U.S. automaker. He's been to Nissan, he's been the BMW. What do you think that says, it's taken him seven years to visit a U.S. automaker, about the administration's commitment to making sure that they thrive in a global economy?

MR. SNOW: The administration certainly has been supportive of the auto industry and it's had a number of meetings with representatives. The President has met with the chairmen of the major automakers, and at the same time, there are constant consultations with people in the auto industry.

This is a chance to take a look at something that's very important for the future of the auto industry, which is to take an innovative look at the challenge of combining fuel efficiency and also new technologies that enable people to have the option to using a variety of fuels for moving their automobiles. It's also something that we like because it's more friendly to the environment.

Q Are the Big Three automakers coming to the White House on Monday?

MR. SNOW: I don't know. I don't know.

Q Will the President have anything to say in his remarks, or could you speak to the automakers' recent woes, their financial losses and the jobs that they're having to shed and the restructuring?

MR. SNOW: No. This is -- what we're talking about today is the President's energy plan and the way in which these two plants are reflecting the kinds of innovation that we think are going to be in the best interests of America's economic future -- and energy future.

Q The companies were miffed a year ago when the President said they need to make relevant products. Does he still feel that way?

MR. SNOW: I'm not going to get into a -- at this point, again, we're here to talk about energy. The fact is we've got a strong economy and it's creating opportunities for a lot of people, and it's generating jobs. It is certainly the fastest-growing economy in the industrialized world. One of the things the President has been talking about is maintaining that robustness so that you have an environment in which people can make investments, and also can adjust to the changing competitive challenges around the world. And again, we're seeing some of that today at these two plants.

Q Thank you.

END 11:54 A.M. EDT