From today’s presser, let’s start with Chimpy’s extra-consitutional spying.
First, Chimpy tries to explain why he did not seek to amend FISA.
BUSH: Now, my concern has always been that, in an attempt to try to pass a law on something that’s already legal, we’ll show the enemy what we’re doing.
And so, of course, we’ll listen to ideas. But I want to make sure that people understand that if the attempt to write law makes this program — is likely to expose the nature of the program, I’ll resist it. And I think the American people understand that.
Why tell the enemy what we’re doing if the program is necessary to protect us from the enemy? And it is. And it’s legal. And we’ll continue to brief Congress. And we review it a lot. And we review it not only at the Justice Department but with a good legal staff inside NSA.
Then he was hammered about the lying.
QUESTION: Members of your administration have said that the secret eavesdropping program might have prevented the September 11th attacks. But the people who hijacked the planes on September 11th had been in this country for years having domestic phone calls and e- mails.
So how specifically can you say that?
BUSH: Well, Michael Hayden said that because he believes that, had we had the capacity to listen to the phone calls from those from San Diego elsewhere, we might have gotten information necessary to prevent the attack.
BUSH: And that’s what he was referring to.
QUESTION: But they were domestic calls…
BUSH: No, domestic — outside — we will not listen inside this country. It is a call from Al Qaida or Qaida affiliates either from inside the country and out or outside the country in, but not domestically.
Ah, the Nixon comparison.
QUESTION: Your explanation on the monitoring program seems to say that when the nation is at war, the president, by definition, can order measures that might not be acceptable or even perhaps legal in peacetime. And this seems to sound like something President Nixon once said, which was, “When the president does it, then that means that it’s not illegal in areas involving national security.”
So how do the two differ?
BUSH: Well, I said yesterday that other presidents have used the same authority I’ve had to use technology to protect the American people.
Other presidents, most presidents most presidents believe that during their — during a time of war that we can use our authorities under the Constitution to make decisions necessary to protect us.
Secondly, in this case, there is an act passed by Congress in 2001 which said that I must have the power to conduct this war using the incidents of war. In other words, we believe there’s a constitutional power granted to presidents as well as, this case, a statutory power. And I’m intending to use that power.
Congress says, “Go ahead and conduct the war. We’re not going to tell you how to do it.”
And part of winning this war on terror is to understand the nature of the enemy and to find out where they are so we can protect the American people.
There’ll be a legal debate about whether or not that I have the authority to do this. I’m absolutely convinced I do. Our attorney general’s been out describing why.
And I’m going to continue using my authority. And that’s what the American people expect.
Followed by the admission of wrongdoing question.
QUESTION: Mr. President, though — this is a direct follow-up to that — the FISA law was implemented in 1978 in part because of revelations that the National Security Agency was spying domestically.
What is wrong with that law that you feel you have to circumvent it and, as you just admitted, expand presidential powers?
BUSH: You said that I have to “circumvent” it. Wait a minute, that’s a — it’s like saying, “You know, you’re breaking the law.” I’m not.
See, that’s what you got to understand: I am upholding my duty and at the same time doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That’s just very important for you to understand.
Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We’re having the discussion in 2006. It’s a different world. And FISA’s still an important tool. It’s an important tool, and we still use that tool.
But, also — and I looked. I said, “Look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law?” And people said, “It doesn’t work in order to be able do the job we expect to us do.” And so, that’s why I made the decision I made.
And, you know, “circumventing” is a loaded word. And I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I’m doing is legally right.
On to AbramOffal. Seems he just doesn’t know one of his campaing “Pioneers”.
QUESTION: What do you fear or your staff fear about releasing the photograph of Jack Abramoff with you, Mr. President? You say you don’t fear anything; tell us why you won’t release this.
BUSH: She’s asking about a person who admitted to wrongdoing and who needs to be prosecuted for that.
There is a serious investigation going on, as there should be. The American people have got to have confidence in the ethics of all branches of government. You’re asking about pictures. I had my picture taken with him, evidently.
BUSH: I’ve had my picture taken with a lot of people. Having my picture taken with someone doesn’t mean that I’m a friend with him or know him very well. I’ve had my picture taken with you… (LAUGHTER) … at holiday parties.
My point is, I mean, there’s thousands of people that come through and get their pictures taken. I’m also mindful that we live in a world in which those pictures will be used for pure political purposes, and they’re not relevant to the investigation.
QUESTION: Do you know how many pictures?
BUSH: I don’t have any idea.
What about that promise made in a campaign for which Jack Abramoff raised more than $100,000?
QUESTION: You talked about Jack Abramoff in the context of pictures, but it may not necessarily be about pictures. He also had some meetings with some of your staff.
So you remember: You ran on the idea of restoring honesty and integrity to the White House.
QUESTION: So why are you letting the critics, perhaps, attack you and paint you with, maybe, a guilt by association? Why not just throw open your books and say, “Look, here’s a meeting that we had…”
BUSH: There is a serious investigation going on by federal prosecutors, and that’s their job. And if they believe something was done inappropriately in the White House, they’ll come and look, and they’re welcome to do so. There’s a serious investigation that’s going on.
QUESTION: But, sir, do you want to tell the American people, “Look, as I promised, this White House isn’t for sale and I’m not for sale”?
BUSH: Look, it’s hard for me to say I didn’t have pictures with the guy when I did. But I have also had pictures with thousands and thousands of people. I mean, people — it’s part of the job of the president to shake hands with people and smile. (LAUGHTER) And I do.
And the man contributed to my campaigns, but he contributed, either directly or through his clients, to a lot of people in Washington, and this needs to be cleared up so the people have confidence in the system.
Is that your final answer?
QUESTION: May I ask you again, why won’t you release the photos of yourself and Jack Abramoff?
BUSH: I just answered the question.
Sucking at the lobbyist teat.
QUESTION: Can you say, sir, whether you were lobbied by Jack Abramoff or other lobbyists, and what your policy is about lobbyists meeting with senior staff?
BUSH: I, frankly, don’t even remember having my picture taken with the guy. I don’t know him.
And this investigation needs to look into all aspects of his influence on Capitol Hill. And if there are some in the White House, I’m sure they’re going to come knock on the doors.
But I can’t say I didn’t ever meet him, but I meet a lot of people. And, you know, evidently he was, just like you were the other day, at the holiday party: came in, put the grip-and-grin, they clicked the picture and off he goes.
And that’s just — I take thousands — well, somebody said I maybe take over 9,000 pictures this holiday season. And he — obviously, we went to fund-raisers, but I’ve never sat down with him and had a discussion with the guy.
QUESTION: Do you meet with lobbyists?
BUSH: I try not to. (LAUGHTER) You know, have I ever met with one? Never having met with one — if I ever said that, sure enough, you’ll go find somebody, you know. But, no, I don’t have them come in.
Now, when, for example, people are helping on issues, like on promoting trade, you bet. We bring them in and I say, “Thank you for promoting CAFTA,” or, “Thanks for working on the vote,” or, “Thanks for helping on tax relief.”
That may be — if you consider that a meeting, the answer is yes, I’m sure I have, in a room full of people, as we either thank people for success in policy or thank people for going out of their way to help get a piece of legislation passed on the Hill.
You’re not Bianca!
QUESTION: Mr. President, good morning.
BUSH: You’re going to have to speak loudly, because somebody took your seat. Your name was on my seating chart, and you’re not sitting down.
QUESTION: Isn’t that a shame?
Bush: he put the “stone” in stonewall.
QUESTION: Mr. President, as you’re saying Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath is one of your top priorities…
QUESTION: … why is it that this administration is not allowing the senior staff, your senior staff that you conversated with prior to Hurricane Katrina, during and after, to testify, to interview or talk with congressional leaders?
And why not push Michael Brown, who is now a private citizen, to go before them, as he is what many are calling the lynchpin for the whole issue?
BUSH: Well, let me make sure you have the facts. We have given 15,000 pages of White House documents to the investigators, congressional investigators. Some, I think it’s 600,000 pages, administrative documents.
We have sent a fellow named Rapawanna (ph) up there to talk about — he’s a White House staffer — to talk to the committee. There have been a lot of interviews. There have been public testimony.
As a matter of fact, we are so concerned about this that we’ve started our own investigation to make sure that we understand the lessons learned from this. This is a problem we want to investigate thoroughly, so we know how to better respond on behalf of the American people.
And so we’re fully cooperative with the members of the House and the Senate. And we’ll do so without giving away my ability to get sound advice from people on my staff.
You see, here’s — and this is an issue that comes up all the time. And you might — we’ve had several discussions like this since I’ve been the president.
If people give me advice and they’re forced to disclose that advice, it means the next time an issue comes up, I might not be able to get unvarnished advice from my advisers.
BUSH: And that’s just the way it works. But we’ve given thousands of pages of documents over for people to analyze.
QUESTION: Does that include Michael Brown?
BUSH: Pardon me?
QUESTION: Does that include Michael Brown?
BUSH: People who give me advice — it will have a chilling effect on future advisers if the precedent is such that, when they give me advice, that’s going to be subject to scrutiny.
Now, we’ve analyzed — we’ve given out all kinds of pages of documents for people and we’re cooperating with the investigators. And that’s important for the American people to know.
What’s also important is we want to know how we can do a better job. And so we’re having a lessons-learned investigation led by Fran Townsend.
And anyway, we need to know.