For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
August 16, 2007
Press Gaggle by Gordon Johndroe
Crawford Middle School
11:15 A.M. CDT
MR. JOHNDROE: Good morning. The President had his normal briefings this morning. In addition to his intelligence briefing, he was also briefed on the earthquake in Peru. The President and Mrs. Bush offer their condolences to the people of Peru, and especially to those who have lost a loved one because of this natural disaster.
The United States stands ready to assist Peru, and is willing to provide assistance based on the needs identified by the government of Peru, as well as United States government teams there.
There is currently a USAID team on the ground now in Lima, assessing the situation and working in conjunction with the government of Peru. And we also have search and rescue teams on standby should they be needed. We'll update you on that later on.
With regards to next week's travel, on Monday, August the 20th, the President will travel to Canada for the North American Leaders' Summit. The President is going to Canada to talk to our North American neighbors about making the continent safer and more prosperous. These are two of our largest trading partners. They are also our two largest sources of energy, and we share 7,000 miles of very dynamic borders with Canada and Mexico.
The President will be greeted by the Governor General of Canada at Ottawa International Airport. Following that, the President will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada. This is the President's third bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Harper. He has, of course, also seen him at various summits such as the G8 and the APEC last year.
They will continue discussions on issues like border facilitation for trade, as well as for travelers; expanding commerce; as well as cooperation on security. They will also discuss global issues like Afghanistan, where Canada has troops fighting side by side with Americans. They'll discuss the Middle East, including Iran; climate change; as well as Doha negotiations.
Following that, the President will meet with President Calderón of Mexico. This is the President's third bilateral meeting with President Calderón in 10 months. They most recently met in Mérida, Mexico, in March.
They will continue their discussions on security cooperation, as well as building on the success of NAFTA, as well as on border facilitation and other bilateral regional issues. I expect they will discuss areas such as strengthening democracy, the protection of human rights, as well as expanding trade and development.
That night, Monday night, the three leaders will attend a dinner where they will all three discuss issues related to the Western Hemisphere.
On Tuesday morning, the leaders will meet with members of the North American Competitiveness Council. It's a group of business leaders particularly interested in secure and prosperous trade here in the North American continent.
Then the President participates in the North American Leaders' meeting, the Security and Prosperity Partnership. At this year's meeting, the leaders have agreed to focus work on five areas. They are: enhancing global competitiveness, safety of food and products, sustainable energy and the environment, smart and secure borders, as well as energy management.
Then the leaders will participate in a working lunch where I expect they will discuss global issues. And following that there will be a joint press availability of all three leaders.
And then the President will depart Canada and travel to Minnesota, as well as Missouri. And you all have that schedule, and we can talk more about that later.
With that, I'm happy to take any questions.
Q Gordon, is the White House trying to restrict the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker when they come here in mid-September with their latest report on the situation in Iraq?
MR. JOHNDROE: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify to the Congress in both open as well as closed sessions prior to the September 15th report. That has always been our intention. I believe the President has talked about the need to hear from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. Those two men will come back to the United States, they will report to the President; they will report to Secretary Rice, they will report to Secretary Gates, as well as the joint staff. They will report to Congress, and more importantly, they will report to the American people on what they see on the ground there.
And I think it's unfortunate that anyone would suggest that they would not do that; trying to start a fight where there really isn't one, because this has always been the plan, and in fact it's even called for in the legislation.
Q So, Gordon, can you clarify -- there was no effort by the White House or the State Department to put Secretaries Rice and Gates out before the public to testify, as opposed to Ambassador Crocker or General Petraeus, in their place?
MR. JOHNDROE: That's correct. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will testify, they will testify about the conditions on the ground in Iraq, what they see, what they think are some recommendations about the way forward. I expect that Secretary Rice and Secretary Gates will also testify during this time period. They often testify before various members of both -- of various committees of both Houses. But it was never an either/or, because Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus will be testifying.
Q And just to be absolutely clear, they're going to be testifying publicly, before cameras, before these various committees?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes. They will -- both Ambassador Crocker, as well as General Petraeus, will have public testimony prior to September 15th.
Q Gordon, who is going to write that report to Congress? Is that going to be a White House product, or will it be principally written by Petraeus and Crocker?
MR. JOHNDROE: General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker, along with Admiral Fallon, Secretary Rice, Secretary Gates, will report in to the President on what they see as the conditions on the ground in Iraq. Then the President will submit that report to the Congress. So it is a report that comes from the President, exactly like the July 15th report, but it is with the input of all of these people.
Q So who writes the report? Is it the NSC, is it senior staff?
MR. JOHNDROE: Sure. Just like the July 15th report of just over a month ago, it is a report written by -- it was submitted by the President, so therefore the White House staff, the NSC staff, but it's very clear that it is based on inputs from our commanders, as well as the ambassador on the ground, as well as Admiral Fallon and Secretaries Rice and Gates. This is the exact same format that was followed for the July 15th report that will be followed for the September 15th report.
I believe the legislation also says that we need to look at how the Baker-Hamilton report is -- recommendations from that report feeds in to the situation, as well. So there's a slight difference from the July 15th report, but otherwise it will be very, very similar.
Q Gordon, if they're going to testify before the report is released, will they be constrained -- testify publicly, in their public testimony will they be constrained not to comment on the contents of the report, since it will not at that point be public?
MR. JOHNDROE: No, I don't think so. I think everyone expects Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus to offer a very candid assessment of the situation on the ground in Iraq. I know that's what President Bush expects; that's what the American people expect. And so, no, I don't think there will be any constraints in their testimony whatsoever.
Q Gordon, earlier this week the State Department said that the United States was considering aid to North Korea after the floods there. Is there any update to that? Is there any money going there? Do we have teams there, as well? Do you know what the situation is?
MR. JOHNDROE: We're in the process of assessing what is going on, on the ground now, what is the damage, and what are their needs. That process is still ongoing. But we may have more for you on that later.
Q Gordon, any reaction to the bumpy markets today from the White House?
MR. JOHNDROE: I would say that as President Bush has said, the U.S. economy is fundamentally sound, and so we expect to see continued economic growth; not for me to comment on daily movements of the market. I think Secretary Paulson has addressed these issues. Secretary Paulson and the other economic advisors stay very much on top of these issues.
Q So the President hasn't talked to members of his economic team about this continued slide this week or -- and he's confident that the market will right itself?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I'll have to check and see the last time he spoke with his economic advisors. Obviously, he has staff down here that keep him informed, but I'll check on that.
Q So the White House didn't, then, ask Congress, or suggest that he do limited testimony?
MR. JOHNDROE: No, no.
Q So the story in the Post is -- you're just denouncing it?
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes. Although I don't -- I won't use that term that you used. I just don't think it's correct.
Q I have a market follow-up. President Sarkozy of France has come out today and said that the G7 should send its finance ministers to discuss the need for greater transparency in financial markets. Do you have a reaction? Is that a good idea?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I haven't seen President Sarkozy's comments. I know that we have previously issued statements regarding open economies and transparency. So I think I'd refer you to those in the absence of having seen President Sarkozy's comments.
Q Gordon, is the White House urging President Musharraf to work out some kind of a political alliance with Benazir Bhutto?
MR. JOHNDROE: As President Bush said at his press conference last Thursday, we support free and fair elections in Pakistan. We have met with various parties there. This is ultimately decisions for the people of Pakistan to make. What the United States wants to see is a peaceful, prosperous, secure, stable Pakistan -- that's in the interests of the Pakistanis, the interests of the region, and interests of the whole world. We want to see a moderate political center form there, following democratic processes. I'd just leave it at that for now.
Q Is there a power sharing idea being considered or being urged upon Musharraf?
MR. JOHNDROE: You know, I think it's better for the Pakistanis to discuss what sort of -- how they're going to proceed with their government. But as I said, we've met with the various parties; explained the U.S. position, which is we are hopeful for free and fair elections, but also a system that follows democratic norms.
Q Yesterday Dana suggested we talk to the State Department and Treasury when we asked about whether the Revolutionary Guard is being considered for inclusion as a terrorist organization, and those agencies had nothing to say. So I wanted to ask you again, are you considering naming them as a terrorist organization?
MR. JOHNDROE: Well, first of all, I'm not going to comment on internal deliberations, but I think what is well known is that the IRGC and the Quds Force element of that are engaging in activities, such as support of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the support of militias in Iraq that are involved in killing of U.S. forces.
So we know they're involved in these activities, and we'd like them to stop. But it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any potential future action.
Q Gordon, in terms of the power-sharing arrangement --
MR. JOHNDROE: Oh, did you have a question? (Laughter.)
Q Oh, I'm sorry, I'll just wait and follow decorum. (Laughter.)
In terms of a power-sharing arrangement, you said that the U.S. has met with all parties. Who are all parties in this case?
MR. JOHNDROE: I don't want to get into too many details. We're obviously talking to people involved in Pakistani government and Pakistani affairs. And I'd rather not get into any details. But we are -- we meet with them in order to talk about potential ways ahead so that we end up with a Pakistan that is, again, an ally in the war on terror and provides for its people.
Q Does that include the former Prime Minister, Bhutto, or not?
MR. JOHNDROE: We meet with a number of people involved in the process.
Q Any more information about what the President is doing today -- bike riding, fishing, running his staff into the ground in the heat? Anything like --
MR. JOHNDROE: Yes, right. Let's see, intelligence briefing, update on the earthquake in Peru, was briefed on some of the weather systems that we have churning out there, as well. Then I believe was going to do a bike ride today and probably maybe clear for a trail, as well.
Okay. Thank you all.
END 11:29 A.M. CDT