Oh, my. Pony Blow was really off his game today.
Pony Wants Us To Believe That Individual Memories Are More Reliable Than A Written Record
Q But, Tony, in the interest of getting at the truth, in the interest of accuracy, why not have an official, indisputable record of what was said — a transcript?
MR. SNOW: Well, first, Jonathan, you’re jumping way ahead and I think — but let’s lay out some of the things that go on. This is a decision that was made at the U.S. Department of Justice. What we have said is, all the key officials are available; sworn testimony, whole bit. Furthermore, the email traffic is available. You will also have available an exhaustive rendering of email from the White House on the outside. And you’ve got the fact basis there. The question you need to ask is what do you gain from the transcript? And the answer is, not much, because —
Q You gain accuracy.
MR. SNOW: No, no —
Q — what was said, not a characterization of what was said, but you know exactly what was said.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, what you’re trying to do is create a presumption of a hearing or a trial. And what we’re saying is —
Q What we’re saying is —
MR. SNOW: No, this is an attempt to get fact. These are, in fact, interviews. They will have specific fact questions. I don’t know how you make this —
Q Tony, the Senator —
MR. SNOW: Let me finish the answer, Ed, and then I’ll get to you.
You start with a decision made at the U.S. Department of Justice. This is where you’ve got the deliberations, the analysis, all these things taking place; you have full access to everything there. The question is, okay, do you have any further questions that may involve the White House? If so, then you also have external communications from the White House elsewhere. That ought to — and if there are other specific questions of fact that have to deal with anything that’s unresolved, you can ask. And, frankly, when it comes to a fact answer, people there are going to be able to get it right, just as I think you get it right when you take notes based on a conversation with me for your reporting, without a transcript.
Q Are you afraid that they’ll be able to go through and find inconsistencies in testimony if there’s a transcript?
MR. SNOW: No, they’ll be able to do it.
Q Tony, how would a transcript make it a political spectacle? And what about a transcript would be not in keeping with amicable and —
MR. SNOW: Well, again, I think you’ve always got a temptation, somebody sort of waving a piece of paper — let me reverse the question: Why would not an interview be conducive to getting at the facts?
Q Well, because if, then, the facts were then discussed, then it would be one person’s word against another and facts might get muddled.
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think so. I mean, I think somebody asks a straight, factual question, you’re going to have witnesses from both parties and from both chambers — House and Senate, your going to have Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate. And you’re going to have people who are responsive. And you know, if they don’t think they’ve got it right they can ask over and over and over until they get it precisely right. So I don’t think that’s —
Q Why not have a record of these facts?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, the facts — my guess is that there will be, that people are certainly going to be open to discussing the facts that they hear.
Ixnay On The Atergatway
Q Tony, that actually goes to a question I have. Presidential aides have testified in the past when there was evidence of impropriety. April mentioned Watergate. This is a case in which the White House is asserting that there is no evidence of impropriety and that nothing was done wrong. So how do you face the American public and say, we’re telling you we didn’t do anything wrong, but we won’t let the top advisors to the President speak publicly about it?
MR. SNOW: No, because — I thought this was a fact-finding mission, and not a ratings-finding mission.
Q Well, the Congress wants testimony in public, and the Congress feels that it has been misled by the administration. How do you avoid the appearance of stonewalling if you don’t send people up there to speak publicly?
MR. SNOW: I think — well, that may be their argument; I hope it’s not yours, because you have done reporting on this, and other people, in the sense of seeing thousands of pages of email responsive to a request produced, also the White House making available communications with the Department of Justice. Again, it is a peculiar form of stonewalling when anybody in the decision loop and any documents generated in the process of a decision will be available to members of Congress. And furthermore, members of Congress will be able to interview to their satisfaction the individuals who were involved. They’re going to have access to all the facts, so I don’t understand how that’s stonewalling. It’s just the opposite.
Q Well, the public doesn’t have access to —
MR. SNOW: The public is going to have access to everything but interviews with White House officials, and there will be representations of that. They already have access to thousands of pages. They will have access to testimony from members of the Department of Justice.
What you’re trying to do is to leap to conclusions about what may or may not be. I think — again, this is an extraordinarily generous offer on our part, and I think what you need to do is turn it back and ask members of Congress, what is it exactly — what fact would you not have access to? What piece of data would you not have access to?
Q So is it the White House’s position then that the public should be satisfied with the representations of members of Congress about what administration officials testify?
MR. SNOW: Well, again, you’re going to have the ability, if Congress accepts what we have offered, to get any communication — those emails from the White House to the Justice Department and anybody on the outside. It seems to me that that satisfies pretty comprehensively.
Again, the question is, what the public wants to know is what’s the truth. And we’re making available every document and every individual who would allow Congress to render that judgment. And I think that’s a perfectly acceptable way to do it. And furthermore, again, it not only preserves presidential prerogative, it also creates a dignified process. And what you’re suggesting is that members of Congress then will run out and misrepresent things after they have had an opportunity to interview members of the White House, which would mean that you’re insinuating that members of Congress are going to act in something less than good faith.
Q I’m not insinuating anything of the sort. I’m saying it will be secondhand.
Gaggle Transcripts: Good. Testimony Transcripts: Bad
Q On that very point, you have a transcript right here, there’s a stenographer every day at this briefing, because you don’t want us to run out and say, Tony said this, and someone else says, no, Tony said that. Why do you have a transcript of this briefing every day, and you won’t have a transcript of what Karl Rove is going to tell Congress?
MR. SNOW: Have you seen a transcript of the conversation you and I had over in the corner the other day?
Q We don’t have a transcript of that —
MR. SNOW: Do you have a transcript of the conversation we have when you call me up and try to get an answer?
Q No, but we report about it, of course, but —
MR. SNOW: The point here is what you’re asking for is something that is more — you’re talking about hearings — these are interviews, and these are fact-finding —
Q Again, you’re saying they’re interviews, Tony. That’s your word. But members of Congress — like Senator Leahy has said he’s been hearing half-truths. He wants testimony. That’s why he’s talking about subpoenas — not interviews. You’re saying interviews, you keep saying that —
MR. SNOW: Ed, do you understand that an interview still carries with it a legal requirement for telling the truth and that the President —
Q You made that point.
MR. SNOW: But that’s an important point, because what you’ve said is a suggestion that somehow in an interview, nobody would be compelled to tell the truth. They will. And furthermore, the President —
Q But they want it under oath. That’s what they’re saying. And also, if you want — again, why not a transcript? I don’t understand. If you let the American people see exactly what people say —
MR. SNOW: I think the question to ask again — and I’m going to turn it back around — you have all this data with you, and you’re haggling over a transcript?
Q The actual testimony. It’s one thing for people to have emails, that’s important —
MR. SNOW: These are interviews. What you’re trying to do is to create a courtroom atmosphere, and that’s exactly what we’re trying —
Q I’m not trying to create anything. The senators maybe, they’re doing an investigation. Talk to them. But the bottom line is they want to hear from Karl Rove and other staffers.
MR. SNOW: And they will. If they want to accept the offer, they will.
Q And they want a transcript.
Oh, Yeah, Pony — No Way This Will End Up In Court
Q Yes, but then there’s a wider scenario that the White House envisions, that is these interviews take place. And should there be a dispute about facts, how would they be resolved in a court of law if there is no transcript?
MR. SNOW: Well, wait a minute. Why are you talking about a court of law?
Q Because we’re talking about a violation of an oath to tell the truth. If there’s some dispute about that — nothing a court would —
MR. SNOW: Well, I think that’s just — that’s a grotesque leap. I’m not going to bite.
The “What Did He/When Did He” Question
Q There is one email from November 15th from Mr. Sampson to Harriet Miers, I believe, “Who will determine whether this requires the President’s attention?”
MR. SNOW: Right.
Q And then there’s a gap in emails. Was there any — perhaps any emails about the President in there? And did the President have to sign off on this? Because the question was raised —
MR. SNOW: The President has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.
What Makes You So Special?
Q Tony, Congress has held hearings from time immemorial. Presidents have even gone to testify there. What would make this a political circus?
MR. SNOW: Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?
Q These are your terms.
MR. SNOW: You do not believe that there would be a political circus?
Q — more so, or less, than any other time in its history?
MR. SNOW: First, what you have just done is made kind of a blanket — Presidents go up to give State of the Union addresses.
Q Presidents have testified.
Q I’m just asking. Again, hearings have gone on for a long time, they’ve been televised on issues great and small. What makes this one more of a spectacle than the other times?
MR. SNOW: No, I don’t think this makes it more of a spectacle.
Q I’m asking about the words that you used —
MR. SNOW: I just gave you the answer.
Running Out The Clock
Q Tony, it looks like, from both sides, an impasse in the making.
MR. SNOW: Again, let me respond to that and then I’ll let you finish the question. I’m not sure. Again, I want you to understand the motivation here, which is that this is a very generous offer. I’ve used the term several times, and it is. We think the Congress ought to be able to find out all the facts in this case. And we have also come up with a proposal we think not only gives them all the facts, but also gives them access to all the key players so they can get every question answered to their satisfaction, so that they can draw a full conclusion. We have laid out an offer, the likes of which I don’t think you’ve seen in quite a long time, and frankly, members of Congress need some time to think it through.
Q How much time?
MR. SNOW: I don’t know. I don’t know. I mean —
Q How much are you willing to give them?
MR. SNOW: As long as — look, again —
Q Eighteen months?
I Can’t See Without My Spectacles
Q When you brought up the idea of political spectacles this morning, you suggested there’s something Americans are tired of. What did you mean —
MR. SNOW: I think Americans are tired of partisanship for partisanship sake.
Q What are some examples of things that Americans are tired of that have come up in the past?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to get into — if you haven’t heard about it, you haven’t been reading your email.
The Clenis Bites Pony In The Ass
Q So, Tony, back when President Clinton was citing executive privilege to keep internal deliberations in that White House from being talked about in Congress, you wrote — now famously —
MR. SNOW: I didn’t say it was famous, Ed. I didn’t get that kind of coverage at the time. (Laughter.)
Q Well, it’s become more famous.
MR. SNOW: Is it making its way through the left-wing blogs?
Q It is. (Laughter.)
Q No, no. But you wrote quite eloquently about this. You said, “Taken to its logical extreme, that position would make it impossible for citizens to hold the chief executive accountable. We would have a constitutional right to a coverup.”
MR. SNOW: Right. Now let me —
Q So why were you wrong then and right now?
MR. SNOW: Because this is a not entirely analogous situation. I’ve just told you what we have, in fact, offered to make available to members of Congress. And what we are doing is we are holding apart confidential communications between advisors and the President. And that is pretty standard practice in White Houses. But, again —
Q It’s exactly what the Clinton administration talked about.
MR. SNOW: Well, I’m not so sure. And I’ll let others do the legal arguing on that. But the important point here is we’re maintaining the presidential prerogatives and, at the same time, we’re making available exhaustive — we’re offering basically to give them, exhaustively, communications that bear on this issue and also make the key players — at least at the Justice Department and the people they said they wanted to hear from at the White House — they’re all going to be available. That’s not a coverup. That is, in fact, a very open offer to get all the facts into the hands of the people who, presumably, want to figure out what the facts are.
Bears Further Investigation
Q Does Karl Rove have a private email address at the RNC?
MR. SNOW: You mean —
Q Can you find out?
MR. SNOW: Oh, yes.
Check Out The Big Brains On Ed Henry
Q Just to follow up on one point earlier, yesterday the President said, and you’ve repeated, that the principle at stake here with executive privilege is that the President needs to get candid advice from his advisors, right?
MR. SNOW: What the President has talked about is privileged communications with close staff members, that is correct.
Q But earlier you were saying that, when I asked about, well, was the President informed of this decision, did the President sign off on U.S. attorneys being fired, you said the President has no recollection of being informed of all this.
MR. SNOW: Correct.
Q So were his advisors really advising him on this? Is this really privileged communication involving the President and his advisors, if the President wasn’t looped in, you’re saying, on this decision? So it was other people —
MR. SNOW: Well, that also falls into the intriguing question category.
Q But, I mean —
MR. SNOW: No, you’re asking — you’re asking me to — look, Ed, there are a number of complex legal considerations in here, and I’m not going to try to play junior lawyer. These are the sort of things that people are going to have an opportunity to talk about.
Q But aren’t you having it both ways? If you’re saying the President wasn’t in the loop, but we need to cite executive privilege for the President’s communications —
MR. SNOW: No, what you’re — what you are saying is, are conversations that didn’t take place privileged? Well, no — they didn’t take place.
Q So what are you protecting, if they didn’t take place?
MR. SNOW: Well, no, we’re not — what we’re trying to do is to protect the ability of the American people to see folks in Washington get at the truth without, in fact, engaging in the kind of unseemly partisanship that has too often been a factor in recent political life.
Anti-Hispanic American? What The Fuck, Les?
Q Thank you. How does the President believe that any member of Congress can vote for a full congressional seat for D.C., but none for Puerto Rico, without being reasonably adjudged as anti-Hispanic American?
MR. SNOW: You know, the President has a very fertile mind. I’m not sure that that’s something that would naturally occur while he’s thinking about other issues.