Q I want to go back over some ground that I think you were trying to clarify a little bit this morning. You said that you felt like some of your comments yesterday had been misinterpreted or stretched a little bit. I guess what I want to ask is, the comments you made yesterday made it sound like the White House’s view towards the Attorney General is, this is a mess and he needs to clean it up; we support him while he does that, but he needs to clean up this mess, which is slightly different than “we have full confidence in him, we want him to stay no matter what.”
MS. PERINO: The reason I felt that I had been maybe misinterpreted is because I did say the President has full confidence in him, and some of the — I heard someone said that I had tepid support of the Attorney General. That’s not true. In fact, I talked to the President again this morning, after the gaggle. We had a chance to talk with him, and he does have 100 percent confidence in the Attorney General.
Q But it does sound like the White House is reserving judgment, saying you need to go and explain yourself, and the unsaid — and the —
MS. PERINO: Oh, I —
Q — the continuation of that is, if you don’t, there might be consequences.
MS. PERINO: No, I think that the President has confidence that the Attorney General can overcome these challenges. And I think that you can full confidence in somebody and believe that they have — still have work to do and believe that they’re going to get that work done.
Still In The Bubble
Q Do you think the President is risking looking out of touch on the Gonzales situation? This is normally a situation where you hear Republicans, senators, congressmen step out in support of somebody who’s embattled.
MS. PERINO: To the contrary, I think that the —
Q And it’s been very silent.
MS. PERINO: To the contrary, I think the Senate Democrats are the ones who could look out of touch. They have made such a spectacle of this. They have wanted to have the show trials, they have drug this out, they continue to make demands, whether moving the goal posts in terms of what they’ve asked for for the administration. I don’t know how we could have been any more forthcoming, and still been within the bounds of the presidential prerogatives.
Q With the possible exception of Orrin Hatch, can you name a Republican who has publicly supported —
MS. PERINO: I’m not going to get into — I’m not going to get into list making.
Q But, I mean, this speaks to the point that there is nobody who supports the Attorney General in the Republican — in the Republican Senate or —
MS. PERINO: I think that you’ve heard — I think that you’ve heard members of Congress say that they want to hear from the Attorney General, and they’re going to have an opportunity to do that on April 17th.
Q — doesn’t mean that they support him?
MS. PERINO: Well, they said — they have legitimate questions. And we have said that the Attorney General needs to be able to address their concerns, and that’s what he is going to do.
Q But it’s no secret there are Republicans all over town who are shaking their head saying, why has the President so pugnaciously dug in on this?
MS. PERINO: There hasn’t been evidence of any — of anything improper or wrongdoing in the decision for the Justice Department to recommend the replacement of eight U.S. attorneys who serve at the pleasure of the President. And that’s why the President continues to have confidence in the Attorney General that they — that he runs a great department, they have wonderful employees who work there, they are moving forward on numerous corruption cases and helping prevent child exploitation.
And I just can’t see how having show trials up on Capitol Hill would be any more out of touch with what the President is doing, which is getting on with the business of the day for the American people.
I Could Have Told Dana She Would Regret Using The Words “Show Trial” and “Spectacle”
Q One follow on that. Do you characterize testimony in which the Chief of Staff of the Attorney General disputes the Attorney General’s explanation as a show trial?
MS. PERINO: No, I’m talking about overall in terms of the spectacle. I think that this has been drug on for a week —
Q Is that part of the spectacle?
MS. PERINO: Well, look — no, I didn’t say that. I’m talking about — we’ve been talking about this for weeks, and we have been working to try to get them the information that they need and get these requests in.
Q And what’s been over the top? You’ve used that phrase —
MS. PERINO: I think some of the rhetoric in terms of claiming that there was wrongdoing or falsehoods, or that — especially I think one of the things that’s been over the top is a suggestion where there is no evidence that there was political interference in terms of preventing public corruption cases from moving forward. I think that’s definitely over the top.
Q Going back to the Attorney General for a minute. You said that Republicans have legitimate questions, certainly, but at the same time, it sounds like you’re saying Democrats —
MS. PERINO: Wait a minute, I didn’t say — no, I — I think that all members of Congress have legitimate questions. I wasn’t — that wasn’t in —
Q But on the Hill, Democrats who want to ask questions in the form of hearings, then you’re saying that’s a spectacle?
MS. PERINO: No, I think that some of their language and some of their rhetoric has been over the top. I think they have legitimate questions, and I think those questions can be legitimately answered. And I would just respectfully submit that we have worked very hard, from the Department of Justice standpoint and the White House, in order to be accommodating.
Q But I think their argument would be, when you have a Monica Goodling saying she’s going to take the 5th, that there’s not an openness there that allows that conversation —
MS. PERINO: I’m pretty certain that the lawyers who are also members of Congress, and senators, up on Capitol Hill, who understand the Constitution far better than I do, would understand that everyone has a right under the Constitution to invoke the 5th Amendment. And I’m not here to judge her decision, and I would refer questions about that to her attorney or to herself.
Check With Fred
Q And one quick question on the attorneys. Has there been a schedule in the mind of Mr. Fielding about when he might be able to respond to Mr. Conyers and Mr. Waxman with their outstanding questions related to email policy, a whole host of things, getting documents that aren’t related to the interviews —
MS. PERINO: I haven’t talked to Fred about that. I know that he has received the letter and we’ll respond when we can.
Q Do you have any idea?
MS. PERINO: I don’t, but we can check with Fred.
Oooooh, This One Stung A Bit
Q How can we have confidence in the President’s 100 percent support for Secretary Gonzales, the Attorney General, when he also had support for Mr. Rumsfeld, 100 percent, right up to the time that he was fired or resigned?
MS. PERINO: What I can tell you is I spoke to the President this morning and he has — the Attorney General has the President’s full confidence.
The Wounded As Props
Q Dana, there are several — you addressed some of this this morning, but there are several veterans groups calling this — this event at Walter Reed a photo op. What’s the response to that?
MS. PERINO: I think that’s an unfortunate characterization. I think that any of you who have had an opportunity — and I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to do a couple of times — actually, a little bit — maybe four — to go with the President to go and see wounded soldiers. And there is no more personal moment that he has, and it’s one of the — one of the memories that I cherish the most of working for the President, because you see his gratitude, and they share hugs, and they share laughter, they share tears. And these are very personal moments.
We worked hard to find time on the President’s schedule where he could spend three hours up there, which he’s going to do today, visiting not just the patients, but the workers who — the medical workers and the staff up there that provide the support to the soldiers.
Q Dana, you’re saying basically because of scheduling? That’s why it’s taken the President so long —
MS. PERINO: What I’m saying, Elaine, is that the President immediately took action. And I don’t think that anyone could disagree with that. The fact that the President is going up there and spending three hours today I think is significant.
Q But in terms of why he didn’t go sooner. Why didn’t he go?
MS. PERINO: You guys are asking me to answer a question that — I just don’t know if it’s answerable. What I can tell you is that the President immediately took action. His Cabinet took action. He was very pleased that Secretary Gates took the action he did to hold those accountable that needed to be held accountable.
Day-um! Even Dana Peroxide Harshes On Les!
MS. PERINO: I see Jim looking at his Blackberry — that can’t be good. (Laughter.)
Q Two questions from the Blackberry.
MS. PERINO: Two questions on the Blackberry? Well, Les isn’t here, so I guess you can have two. (Laughter.)
Q Now, is that necessary? (Laughter.)
MS. PERINO: Well, I looked out and he wasn’t here.
Q Are they going to be that good?
Q Okay, this one is for the network.
MS. PERINO: From WorldNet Daily? (Laughter.)
Q I can’t imagine they’d have somebody they’d want asking questions less than they’d want me asking questions for the WorldNet Daily.