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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 26, 2007

Press Briefing by Dana Perino
White House Conference Center Briefing Room

12:38 P.M. EDT

MS. PERINO: Good afternoon. I have a readout for you this afternoon of the President's meeting with the Big 3 automakers. They had a very good meeting. It was scheduled to go just 30 minutes; it almost went to 45 minutes. So they had lots to talk about. I was told that it focused primarily on the President's 20-in-10 program. This is the program where the President is seeking to reduce gasoline consumption in America by 20 percent in 10 years. They talked about the advancements in technology, including specifically biodiesel, E85, and lithium ion batteries, and they shared optimism on cellulosic ethanol, with both the President and the CEOs agreeing that cellulosic ethanol and the technology push is the linchpin to reaching the 20-in-10 goal.

And with that, I'll take your questions.

Q Can I follow up because --

MS. PERINO: Sure.

Q Was there any discussion of Korea and the United States negotiating a trade deal with Korea that's not very popular with the automakers? Did they press him on that at all?

MS. PERINO: I didn't attend the meeting, and from the readout I got, that did not seem to come up. But I can -- we can check back.

Q Did the President -- on that same subject, did the President mean to say that by 2012, half of all the cars in America would be alternative fuels, as he said, or would it be half of all new cars being produced?

MS. PERINO: I believe it's the new cars that are being produced. And we can refer -- let me refer back and see what the automakers say, because I believe they addressed it at the stakeout, as well.

Jennifer.

Q You said this morning that Attorney General Gonzales needs to go to Capitol Hill to explain the decision and how it happened and how it was explained. Two questions about that. One, he's not scheduled to do that for more than three weeks. Is that too long to wait? And number two, is this a signal that his future in the administration might rest on how good a job he does with that explaining?

MS. PERINO: No, I was -- what I meant this morning is I was referring back to what the President had said, which is that the Attorney General has work to do on Capitol Hill. And that remains to be true. It is true that the Attorney General's scheduled testimony is not for about three weeks, and I grant you I think that seems like a long time. But I don't think I would read into that that the Justice Department isn't having ongoing discussions with members of the Judiciary Committees on both the House and Senate side, and other members who have expressed interest.

Q Would you rather that he went sooner?

MS. PERINO: It's really not up to me. I think that the Attorney General and the Congress is going to have to work that out. I know that this Thursday there will be testimony by a DOJ official.

Q You chose to emphasize that, so is there any sort of signal that there's anticipation here that he needs to do a good job and --

MS. PERINO: Oh, I think that that's implicit in -- from the very beginning, when the President said, when we were in Mexico, that, yes, he absolutely has -- the Attorney General has the confidence of the President, but that it was understandable that Congress had questions and that they needed those questions to be answered. And the President wanted them to do that.

And I would remind everyone here another thing that I said this morning, which is that one of the things the President wanted to make sure that the Attorney General was doing is turning over responsive documents to the Congress. And they've been working around the clock to try to find those. And as they do, they release them. I know that was a little bit of a frustration late on a Friday night, but they are trying to be as responsive as possible as quickly as possible.

Q Dana, are you saying that his scheduled testimony, which is three weeks away -- that he actually may go up to the Hill before when he's scheduled right now?

MS. PERINO: I don't know if there are individual meetings -- you would have to ask Department of Justice if any members have asked to see the Attorney General beforehand. That would not be unusual.

Q Let me ask you about the email that shows the Attorney General in a meeting on November the 27th, and then the Attorney General's statements on March 13th, "We never had a discussion about where things stood." Do you find anything inconsistent in that?

MS. PERINO: The Justice Department, when they gave their statements on Friday night, said that they weren't inconsistent. And my reading of it is that the Attorney General has said -- I understand that there's a March 13th piece, but I also looked back on March 14th, when he did interviews back and forth -- I think it was with a CNN network -- in which he said, and he said consistently, that he does not recall being involved in deliberations about who -- which U.S. attorneys might be asked to be replaced for the remainder of the term. But he does say that he signed off on the final list. And my reading of that meeting was that was the final decision -- the decisions had been made, the final plan had been in place, and they were asking the Attorney General for a sign-off.

Q So what's he getting out of the 13th, when he said, "We never had a discussion about where things stood"?

MS. PERINO: I think what he's referring to -- and, again, I'm going to refer you to Justice Department for exactly what his thinking is, but when he says he doesn't recall having recollections about having deliberative discussions about the ongoing process over that two-year period, but that he does take responsibility for signing off on the final plan.

Q Are you concerned -- this is a Cabinet Secretary. Are you concerned at all that there seems to continue to be drips and drabs of information that comes out which seems to contradict the ever-changing story of the Attorney General?

MS. PERINO: I would take a slight issue with that, because I think what the Justice Department has done was what the President has asked them to do, which is to go back and look and leave no stone unturned, and find the documents that are responsive to the Congress. And when they do so, they turn them over. On that November 27th date, there was apparently a meeting. I don't know who attended, I know that it was on a schedule.

Q Well, it's pretty clear who attended. I mean, it says there who --

MS. PERINO: It says who was invited to attend --

Q Right.

MS. PERINO: -- but I don't know who all ended up being there.

Q Are there any notes from that meeting?

MS. PERINO: Jim, you guys are going to have to -- as much as I would like to be able to help you and answer that question for you, I don't know. You'd have to ask the Justice Department.

Q But you're in a position now where people are looking at this and going, this is really starting not to pass the sniff test. And that's an administration issue, not a Justice Department issue.

MS. PERINO: I just explained to you my understanding of the meeting and why I believe that those statements were consistent. Now, does the Congress continue to have questions? Yes, they do, and I understand that. And the President understands that. And we have said for the past couple weeks as this has been going on that the communications with the Hill needs to be --

Q One more. So we should look at his statements now on March 14th as the accurate answer --

MS. PERINO: I'm trying to give you a full picture. I'm trying -- people were looking at that March 13th date. My recollection is that the Attorney General had said that he did not remember having discussions about deliberations of the ongoing process, but that he had signed off on the final list. I understand that that March 13th press conference, he might be accused of being imprecise in what he was saying. But I do know that on March 14th, which is just the next morning when he did those interviews, that he did reiterate what I had just told you.

Q Can he afford to be imprecise at this point in the proceedings?

MS. PERINO: I think -- look, you're talking about two weeks ago. I think that -- I understand the concern, I understand that people might think that there are inconsistencies, but as I read it, I think that he has been consistent.

Q Dana, when the President said in Mexico City that Attorney General Gonzales would -- or in Mérida, the Attorney General would go up to Capitol Hill and reassure lawmakers and deal with their concerns, I took it to mean he would go up there in public testimony and do so. Was I wrong at that?

MS. PERINO: I think it could mean a variety of things. I mean, in Capitol Hill, members of the Cabinet and members of the administration have meetings, individual meetings or group meetings with members of Congress all sorts of times, and it doesn't have to necessarily be testimony. The Department of Justice had said that the Justice Department officials were willing to testify, but I don't think at that time that a hearing had been scheduled.

Q So the President wasn't necessarily talking about Attorney General Gonzales going up there and sitting before a congressional committee and answering all their questions?

MS. PERINO: I think what the President meant was that it was inclusive of all different ways that you can talk to Congress.

Q Dana, this morning you said that this November 27th meeting that the Attorney General was just signing off on the names, right?

MS. PERINO: Yes.

Q It's an hour-long meeting. Does it take an hour to just sign off on the names, or doesn't it sound like there may have been some deliberations there?

MS. PERINO: Ed, I don't know how Justice Department does its scheduling. I don't know how many people attended. I don't know who actually showed up to attend the meeting. I don't know how long the meeting lasted. I don't know exactly what was said in the meeting. But I know that -- what I can tell you is what the purpose of the meeting was.

Q When Kyle Sampson resigned a couple of weeks back, the White House said the reason was that he had not fully informed his superiors about the deliberations and what-not. Does that still hold water, since on November 27th, in fact, he had a one-hour meeting with the Attorney General, who was his superior?

MS. PERINO: Again, go back to what I said, Ed, which was that the Attorney General has said he doesn't recall having discussions about the deliberations that had been ongoing, that he had delegated that to members of his staff -- that remains true -- and that he had signed off on the final list -- that remains true.

Q But presumably, if he signs off -- is the Attorney General, the chief law enforcement of the nation, does he just sign off on a list without, hey, how did you arrive at this decision? I mean, you're saying he just signed off on it and didn't know how they arrived there at all? He just said, okay, I'll sign my name?

MS. PERINO: Ed, as much as I would like to be able to answer questions about what exactly happened in that meeting, I just can't do that from here, and I have to refer you to the Justice Department.

Q And also, just in general, if he had a meeting, though -- Kyle Sampson -- with his superior, the Attorney General, on November 27th, and then the Attorney General signed off on these names, that would seem to imply that, in fact, the Attorney General was informed of the fact they were firing these people. He signed off on it. So can Kyle Sampson really --

MS. PERINO: I think that's a little bit of a stretch, because I do think what the Attorney General has consistently said is that he doesn't recall having discussions about the ongoing deliberations; that when he was presented with the final plan he did give the final sign-off. So I think that that is consistent.

Q Okay, last thing. Where does it stand right now, in terms of the negotiations with Capitol Hill on moving forward with testimony for White House aides like Karl Rove? And where do you stand on just the broad issue of executive privilege? Is that something you anticipate the White House will cite here?

MS. PERINO: We have not cited any particular privilege. There are long-standing constitutional separation of powers issues that go all the way back to the framers, who thought about this long and hard and could maybe anticipate things that we were going to be going through as a nation as three branches have natural tensions amongst each other. So, no, we have not asserted any type of privilege.

What we have done is, if you step back, the Congress said that they were going to authorize subpoenas to the Justice Department, and Justice Department said, you don't need to; we'll be willing to come up, we'll be willing to turn over documents. That said, they went ahead and issued subpoenas. The White House -- they said they were going to issue subpoenas. We said, there's no need to authorize subpoenas, because we have -- even though we don't have any responsibility to you, and you don't have any specific oversight over the White House, we are willing to have our four officials that you've asked for to go up and have an interview with members of Congress -- all those details to be worked out -- and that we would release documents from here, from the White House, to outside entities.

That was an extraordinary compromise on our part from the beginning, and so we do feel like we have compromised. We have made a very reasonable offer. I do know of no ongoing negotiations with the Hill in regard to the offer that we have. If the Congress wants to choose confrontation over resolution, that is their choice. But we remain hopeful that they would see the wisdom in working this out with us, with this offer.

Q When you say that the Congress has no oversight over the White House -- Republican Senator Chuck Hagel is saying in Esquire Magazine this month that the President --

MS. PERINO: Quoting Esquire Magazine.

Q Well, a Republican Senator is quoted in there saying that, in fact, the President does not believe that -- Chuck Hagel believes the President doesn't think he needs to be held accountable, and that he drops the word "impeachment," that perhaps others -- he's not saying himself -- but Hagel says, others may want to bring up the word, impeachment, but --

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to comment on something as ridiculous as that.

Q A couple things. Just for the record, are the people who are not negotiating with Congress aware that it is unprecedented for somebody like Karl Rove, or somebody who's giving even an interview, to have no transcript kept of their closed-door interview, except in national security instances?

MS. PERINO: I don't know all the issues of precedent that go all the way back. I do know that people have meetings all the time and they have discussions all the time, and there aren't transcripts produced all the time. But this isn't --

Q Not according to the committee --

MS. PERINO: Let me finish, Jessica, which is that the White House -- the Congress does not have oversight over the White House. We are not -- this is not a hearing, this is not an interrogation --

Q What do you mean, don't have oversight?

Q But there is checks and balances, and that's the way the system has worked --

MS. PERINO: There are checks and balances, but we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all. But that's not what we did.

Q But that's a form of -- you don't see this as a form of confrontation, refusing to follow practice?

MS. PERINO: No, the way I see it is that it is a form of accommodation.

Q And so the White House is being accommodating by saying, we won't negotiate, take our offer or leave it?

MS. PERINO: We are being accommodating because we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all, and instead we've been quite generous and extraordinarily open about what we're willing to provide.

Q Okay, another question. Has the President talked to the Attorney General since this new set of documents came out Friday night?

MS. PERINO: No.

Q So what you're telling us when you've given us a response today is your interpretation of what the Attorney General has said in public before and what these documents say. Wouldn't it be --

MS. PERINO: And my conversations with the Justice Department and my team here.

Q What is keeping the White House from calling the Attorney General directly and saying, hey, man, what's the inconsistency, explain it?

MS. PERINO: I can't tell you that there hasn't been anybody that's talked to the Attorney General. You asked me if the President had spoken to him, and I believe the answer is, no.

Q So the President isn't worried about an apparent inconsistency?

MS. PERINO: I've not spoken to the President about it.

Helen.

Q Is the President confident in Gonzales, based on the fact that he believes the criteria of all the massive firings was direct -- bad performance?

MS. PERINO: The President believes that -- well, first of all, just to take a step back. Any U.S. attorney serves at the pleasure of the President. They are political appointees. And when they are nominated we work very hard to make sure that they are supported politically so that they can get through what, as you all know, can be a very combative confirmation process. So they serve at the pleasure of the President. The President has a responsibility to set a broad prosecutorial agenda that the U.S. attorneys then go forward to fulfill.

And we provide -- we at the White House give wide deference to the Justice Department in its management of the U.S. attorneys. And if they decided that there were six, seven, eight, nine, 93 U.S. attorneys that they thought should be replaced, and that they say that they had reasons to do it --

Q That isn't an answer to my question.

MS. PERINO: -- for the reasons that they've said, then the President does have confidence in the Attorney General and the final decision that he made.

Q Does the President have -- does the Attorney General have to have a reason for firing, or can it be just on a whim?

MS. PERINO: Technically, no. Technically, no.

Sheryl.

Q Dana, you have Republican senators now saying that they need a transcript for this meeting, interview, as you call it. It seems to be an area where if the White House would give a little bit, you might find some give at least in your own party on Capitol Hill. Is this the White House's position that the offer for these interviews without a transcript is final and that there will be no negotiation over the issue of a transcript?

MS. PERINO: I know of no negotiations that are ongoing. I do know that in regards to the transcript, we -- this is not a hearing or an interrogation, and in order to avoid the appearance of that, we offered the interview. I do understand that there are some people who would disagree with our position.

Q But I'm asking you --

MS. PERINO: I understand that there are some Republicans who think that we should offer a transcript, as well. That is just not where we are right now.

Q You're saying that you know of no negotiations that are ongoing, but is it your position that there will be no negotiations, that this is a non-negotiable issue?

MS. PERINO: At this point, I believe that is true. From all that I know, I believe that is true. I do think that anyone looking at it objectively could say that because we could have said that we are not going to talk to you at all, and we offered this olive branch of sorts, that they don't want to take us up on it.

Q So your position is firm, no transcript?

MS. PERINO: Correct.

Roger.

Q How does the President think that the Attorney General can be effective when the erosion of support among Republicans is growing?

MS. PERINO: I think that -- I don't know if any of you are on the Department of Justice press release distribution list, but I certainly get lots of press releases from them on all the issues that they are managing, including immigration cases and the child exploitation cases that the Attorney General has placed a priority on, corruption cases -- we saw one just last week, a member of our own administration, so -- a former member of our own administration. And so I think that the Justice Department absolutely continues on, as we all do in government. Sometimes when you're under the spotlight like that, it might be uncomfortable, and you have to have a lot of -- you have to do a lot of work on that issue in order to keep going, but absolutely, the other issues of the Department have to continue on. And from all I know, they certainly are.

Q And he's still effective?

MS. PERINO: Absolutely.

Goyal.

Q Dana, first of all, I pray for the --

MS. PERINO: Is this still on U.S. attorneys?

Q No.

MS. PERINO: Okay. Is there anybody else?

Q Yes.

Q Yes.

MS. PERINO: Kevin.

Q How concerned are you that the appearances, when you don't have testimony that's on a transcript, and when you don't have people that are willing to be under oath, that the American people look at that and say, what are they up to, maybe they're trying to hide something -- how concerned are you about that appearance?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that it's incumbent upon us to continue to explain what our position is and why it is. I think the people understand that it is good, not just for this President, but for the presidency as a whole, to have White House internal deliberations continue to be held within the confidence of the President. And that is good, not just for this President, but for future presidents, what he or she may do in the future. So it's incumbent upon us to explain that.

Also, the other thing that we need to remind people is that the President expects every member of his administration to be truthful when they're talking to anybody; that includes members of Congress. In fact, it's a crime if you don't tell the truth to a member of Congress.

And so we could have said, we're not going to talk to you at all, and then what sort of a PR position would we be in? But the President decided that he would allow his aides to go up and testify, that we would turn over an unprecedented amount of documents from -- unprecedented from our standpoint, from our administration. And so in terms of concern, I understand where you're coming from, but I think that we have continued to explain what our position is, and that's what we have -- that's just what we have to do.

Peter.

Q Following up on Roger's question, following the comments of Senator Graham, Senator Specter, and other Republicans, do you sense an erosion of Republican support for the Attorney General?

MS. PERINO: I don't know how to characterize it. I do know that those three members have expressed concern, and other members have, as well, and the Attorney General knows that he has work to do on Capitol Hill. And we talked a little bit about that beforehand. And so that work has to be ongoing. He has to get up there and continue to explain.

And they also -- I think the other thing that we cannot lose sight of is that the Justice Department is going out of its way to try to find documents that are responsive to the request, and then to turn them over to the Congress and to the press as soon as possible.

Q It seems that each document released raises new questions.

MS. PERINO: I disagree, I understand that's what your characterization is, but I just disagree.

Q Dana, can I just follow one more time on this notion of transcript? Doesn't the events of last Friday illustrate perfectly why a transcript is necessary? In other words, you have more documents that come out Friday. You have the Attorney General saying something that appears inconsistent. And then you say, ah, but look at the transcript of CNN on the --

MS. PERINO: I see your point. (Laughter.) I see your point, Jim, and I understand that people would think --

Q -- it's a serious question, that you're referring to something that there's no dispute about what was said, because there's a transcript.

MS. PERINO: Jim, I see your point, but -- however, the decision that we have made is to allow for interviews that would be on the record, where people could take notes. And I understand that some people would think that that is not a good idea, and I understand the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript of March 14th. However, these meetings are not hearings, they are not interrogations, they are not under the Kleig lights. They are meetings in which members say they want to get to the bottom of the facts. And if they really want to, they have that opportunity available to them --

Q But if Harriet Miers --

MS. PERINO: -- and there are other opportunities for members of Congress to get different data points of information in order to pull the full story together.

Q But if Harriet Miers and Karl Rove have recollections of answers to questions that don't exactly match, and we're trying to "get to the truth" --

MS. PERINO: Nothing would prevent them from following up.

Q But follow up how? With notes, or with what each one actually said?

MS. PERINO: With follow-up questions.

Q Yes, based on what? What each one actually told investigators, or what the best notes reflect of what they told them?

MS. PERINO: Jim, we're not going to have a transcript.

Ann, go ahead.

Q The House is going to vote to roll back the authority to name new replacement U.S. attorneys --

MS. PERINO: Under the Patriot Act?

Q Under the Patriot Act. Does the President -- would the President sign HR 580, if it lands on his desk?

MS. PERINO: I believe that we have taken a position we are not going to oppose the legislation. And so if it makes it through -- we'll see how it ends up through the legislative process, but we are not actively opposing the legislation.

Q Does the President think it's okay that the Attorney General did not have more involvement in the deliberations about firing the U.S. attorneys?

MS. PERINO: I believe so. I haven't talked to the President about that. I know that the Attorney General has said that he delegated this responsibility to people who work for him in his office. And certainly the President does that in his own office. And so his management style is similar in that regard.

Q But isn't that a pretty major decision for an Attorney General to fire eight U.S. attorneys --

MS. PERINO: He did say that he signed off on the final plan.

Q What else is he doing if he's not really involved in a personnel matter of that level?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think the Attorney General is extremely busy, and you just have to look at the record of successes they've had in terms of the prosecutions and the policy matters that they've gone forward on in a variety of different areas, including privacy protection, and the exploitation of children and trying to end that. And they're working very cooperatively across the administration in order to move forward on several of those fronts.

Q But he was too busy to do this?

MS. PERINO: I'm not going to answer that.

Go ahead, Victoria.

Q Is the White House calling Republican members of Congress to try to stop the erosion of support?

MS. PERINO: Well, I know that -- I don't know specifically how the conversations are going. I do know that our staff, our White House Legislative Affairs staff, led by Candi Wolff, is in regular contact with members of Congress. And so I don't have anything specific for you, but, of course, you can bet that we're talking to members of Congress.

Q And do you see how, to the American people, the notes which are going to be taken by several different people and invariably going to vary, and don't have the solidity of a transcript, could be seen as just you being not quite straight?

MS. PERINO: No, I don't think that that's how people would see it. I understand some people would disagree with our decision about not having a transcript. However, these are not hearings, this is a meeting. And you have meetings all the time where transcripts aren't produced.

Q The Senate is beginning debate on the Iraq resolution. Their version has a time line, but it's a non-binding time line. Why should that still be veto bait?

MS. PERINO: It's non-binding -- I guess -- you mean there's no -- non-binding, so there's just a time line just to have a time line? I don't know specifically about that. I do know that we would object to time line -- timetables for withdrawal. We would object to people taking out flexibility for commanders on the ground. And we also object to extra domestic spending that is used to buy votes in order to get to a simple majority vote that is not going to be able to sustain a veto. And the President has said that he is going to veto this bill. And so, as he said on Friday, the Democrats have had a chance to make their political statement. They've made it, and now it's time to stop that charade and move on and let's get to the business of making sure that the troops have what they need.

Anything else?

Q Well, yes, because the Senate bill is different in one of the --

MS. PERINO: I'd have to take a look at that language, in terms of the timetable -- time line, versus timetable. I'd need to take a look.

John.

Q Is the President going to do any events in the foreseeable future aimed at supporting that message, saying that we need the funding to support the troops and support --

MS. PERINO: Yes, on Wednesday the President is giving a speech at the Cattlemen's Association. Two broad themes for that speech are that the President will discuss the importance of trade and opening markets for America's producers, especially the beef industry and other agricultural products. There are a number of trade deals before the Congress. They are Peru, Panama, and Colombia. And the U.S. Trade Representative is also in the midst of promising discussions with South Korea.

So he is going to be talking about that, including asking Congress to reauthorize trade promotion authority, shorthand TPA, as you hear people talk about that. But he'll also talk about the supplemental legislation that's moving through. He'll use it as an opportunity to address the global war on terror, and the importance of allowing the new Iraq plan to succeed. The President will say it is dangerous to our soldiers on the ground to let Washington politics delay this funding. So that will happen on Wednesday.

Goyal.

Q Dana, quick two questions, but before my questions, I just pray for a speedy recovery for Tony.

MS. PERINO: Yes, we certainly -- we all do.

Q And my question is, there is an article in India Globe that as far as Pakistanis are concerned here, there is an outlook list at the Homeland Security. Can you confirm that political Pakistanis are being hunted by the Homeland Security, as far as going and coming from and to Pakistan, as far as getting training in Pakistan, and --

MS. PERINO: No, I haven't heard that. I'd have to refer you to DHS for more on that.

Q Second question. As far as this Iranian nuclear program is concerned, U.N. Security Council voted Saturday, I think, against Iran as far as sanctions are concerned. But Iranian President is now retaliating and also calling on the West that they will pay the price, including IAEA and other --

MS. PERINO: And your question?

Q Where do we stand -- where do we go from here? Because as far as sanctions are concerned, they hardly work against any country, as far as I have seen --

MS. PERINO: I would disagree with that. What happened was, on Saturday evening, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously to send a strong message to Iran, to stop isolating their country and their people, to suspend their program, and to come to the table. It was very good to see that the international community was so strongly united, and we would urge the Iranians to stop and think before going down the road of non-compliance.

Let me go to the back, and then Jessica, and then Lester.

Q On a different issue, the primary meetings of the Arabic summit, which is going to be held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, are underway. And as you know that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia acknowledged the peace initiative, which is now the Arabic peace initiative. To what extent do you think that this summit will help in bringing about peace and stability in the region?

MS. PERINO: As you know, Secretary Rice is in the region, and I think I would have to refer you to the State Department for any update on her trip. But yesterday -- she had a press conference yesterday with the Foreign Minister in Egypt, and then her talks are ongoing. So I'm going to let State Department read that out.

Let me go to Jessica, and then we'll come to you, Lester.

Q About the British sailors. These are 15 sailors with, perhaps, the U.S.'s closest allies have been taken by the Iranians. And the President hasn't made a statement about it, and even from the podium you all -- both you and Tony have said, we echo what the Brits have said. Is there a deliberate effort to keep a backseat on this, for the White House to not mess up some sort of diplomatic efforts?

MS. PERINO: Well, you can be assured that we are in close contact with our British allies. We strongly support the message that Tony Blair sent yesterday, the strong message of the hostage taking being wrong and unjustified. But as far as further comment, I don't have anything for you.

Q Is the President not outraged by this?

MS. PERINO: We share the same concern and the outrage that Prime Minister Blair has.

Q Will we be hearing from the President on it?

MS. PERINO: I'll keep you updated.

Q Can I just ask one quick one about Pat Tillman?

MS. PERINO: Sure.

Q Has the President been briefed on that? What's your sense. It's coming out at 4:00 p.m. today, and what's the White House reaction?

MS. PERINO: I went to check on it. The President is aware that the Department of Defense is going to issue an IG report today. He wants to learn more. He didn't get the details, he got a very brief briefing. He has very serious concerns, as does the Secretary of Defense. The President feels that Pat Tillman was an inspiration to all of us. And I looked back, and in 2004, one of the things that the President said was that "Pat Tillman set aside a career in athletics and many things the world counts important -- wealth and security and acclaim of crowds. He chose instead the rigors of Ranger training and the fellowship of soldiers, and the hard duty in Afghanistan and Iraq."

And, of course, we hold Pat Tillman's family in our thoughts and prayers. And as there's more information to release from the White House, we'll let you know. But as you said, the Department of Defense is having a briefing at 4:00 p.m.

Q But why do you think the Pentagon -- since you have such reverence for Pat Tillman's service, why wasn't the Pentagon honest with his own family about his death?

MS. PERINO: I think that we need to allow the IG report to come out, and they can answer those questions from there. As I said, the President is very concerned, and those are shared by the Secretary of Defense.

Okay, Lester. Quickly.

Q Thank you, Dana. And welcome.

MS. PERINO: Thank you.

Q Two questions. Regarding your mentioning of the exploitation of children, another attempt to prevent children from being exposed to pornography on the Internet has been struck down by a federal judge. How important is it that the nation implement protections to keep professional pornographers from preying on America's children?

MS. PERINO: Obviously, no one would want to see children preyed upon, and so those matters are very important.

Q So you disagree with this judge?

MS. PERINO: I haven't seen the -- I haven't seen the ruling or the judge, and I have to refer you to the Justice Department for their reaction.

Q The New York Times reports that the head of the 70 percent federally financed non-profit tax-exempt Smithsonian Institution, Lawrence Small, is paid a salary of $915,000 a year, and he logged $90,000 in unauthorized expenses. And my question: Does the President support Republican Senator Grassley in his expos of this, and his amendment to freeze a $17 million proposed increase in the Smithsonian's budget?

MS. PERINO: Well, certainly the President agrees that Secretary -- that Senator Grassley is right to look into the matter.

Q And what is his reaction when this man is being paid more than twice --

MS. PERINO: -- informed by our ABC colleagues that he's resigned. So I think that --

Q He's resigned?

MS. PERINO: Well, you'll have to -- you'll have to get that from ABC, not from me. (Laughter.)

Q Any update on Tony Snow?

MS. PERINO: Tony's surgery wasn't scheduled until 1:30 p.m. this afternoon, so as soon as we have an update -- we've asked Mrs. Snow to give us a call to let us know that he came through brilliantly and he's resting comfortably, and as soon as we are able to do that, we will let you know.

Q Thank you.

MS. PERINO: Thank you.

END 1:10 P.M. EDT