Q: The president said yesterday that "Al has got some work to do up there" on Capitol Hill, that he wants him to go up there. It seems like maybe he's leaving it up to Gonzales to save himself, prove himself, or not.
SNOW: No, the president has got confidence in the attorney general. But he's also made it clear that the Department of Justice didn't handle properly the notification of US attorneys they intended to find replacements for, the Capitol Hill notifications, in some cases, and furthermore, there was some testimony on the Hill where people weren't fully briefed on email trails and so on. And therefore, the attorney general, I think, is going to be doing some outreach to members of Congress to explain what went on.
Q: The attorney general said mistakes were made in the Patriot Act, mistakes were made in the prosecutors, so how many mistakes...
SNOW: There are a lot of things going on at the Department of Justice, and the president has confidence in his attorney general.
Q: Is the White House going to allow testimony from Harriet Miers and Karl Rove?
SNOW: Well, what we're doing right now is we are trying to get the information that congressional committees need in a manner that's consistent with presidential prerogatives. Fred Fielding was up on the Hill yesterday having conversations with members on the Hill, and I think they're going to be working that out over the next couple of days.
Q: What sort of "manner" would that be?
SNOW: I'm not going to prejudge it. We'll just have to wait and see.
Q: Are you ruling out actual testimony.
SNOW: No, I...
Q: ... which would be unusual.
SNOW: I'm going to let Fred make those determinations. That is really up to him.
Q: Does the president believe that it was appropriate to fire some of these prosecutors?
SNOW: Yes, absolutely. Look, there are a couple of things to keep in mind, Toby. First, US attorneys serve four-year terms. And then there's a holdover provision. So in each of these cases, the four-year term had expired, and it's perfectly appropriate for people who work at the pleasure of the president to be replaced at the pleasure of the president. So yes, it's perfectly appropriate.
Q: But they're saying "at the pleasure of the president," but he said that he did not specifically know about the cases.
SNOW: No, he did not, specifically. What he does is, as the Commander-in-Chief, he also delegates responsibility to Cabinet officers. And the Attorney General had a recommendation to replace seven US attorneys, and the president said, "okay." And he approved that decision.
Q: Tony, in the email traffic, loyalty came down as a criteria for employment as a US attorney. Does the president believe that loyalty to him and his administration is an important criteria?
SNOW: No, the criteria -- and I don't want to be a fact witness. I think you have to go back and take a look at the emails. I'm not sure that the characterization is accurate, but you're going to have to ask the person who wrote the email --- and that would be Kyle Sampson -- what he meant by it.
Question Well, I'm asking you...
SNOW: Well, I'm telling you that the president's criterion here is, "are people being effective, are they performing up to standards as US attorneys?" That does not mean that they are being held to political litmus tests. It does mean that there are performance standards that they ought to be measured against.
Q: He looked into their performance and found it wanting?
SNOW: The Department of Justice did, yes....
Q: Anybody calling Senator Sununu? What's your direct response to him?
SNOW: We're disappointed.
Question Anybody telling him that?
SNOW: I suspect... I don't know. He called over to Leg Affairs yesterday briefly, about 15 minutes before he made the announcement. So we were aware that it was coming. But I'm not certain that there have been any phone calls. Did the president call him? No....
Q: Tony, in your earlier comment on the US Attorney's Office, you laid the emphasis on the mistakes being in how this information was communicated to Congress.
Q: But I'm curious, is it the White House position that in the actual decision to remove the US attorneys, and the decision of who to replace them with, that there was no inappropriate political pressure brought to bear there?
SNOW: That is correct.
Q: Okay. And in terms of the role of Karl Rove and people in the political shop, beyond the fact that he told Ms. Miers that this was not a good idea to get rid of 93, what role did they have, now that you've reviewed the situation?
SNOW: I'll tell you, we are still in a position where we're also doing internal document reviews. And DOJ also has not completed its document production. So I'm just going to have to hold off on that. I cannot characterize fully.
Q: How can you say that there was no political element in this, after putting the emails out which detail it very clearly, and which specifically state that the people who were dismissed, the seven of them anyway, were not -- I forget the exact language -- on the administration's agenda?
SNOW: No, no, no, what they're talking about is under-performing in terms of benchmarks that have been laid out in terms of priorities. In one case, for instance, you had disputes over application of the death penalty. When you're talking about an agenda, this is not talking about doing politics, this is saying that you have certain things that have been specified by the Department of Justice as areas of emphasis and concern...
Q: Even after successful prosecutions by many of these attorneys?
SNOW: No, look, that's great. But the fact is that you ought to be -- not only have successful prosecutions, for instance, in corruption cases, but you also have other obligations and points of emphasis that you also have to meet. This is not an either/or situation. And certainly we have no qualms of the fact we're perfectly happy with the corruption investigations. People who corrupt public officials ought to be rooted out and prosecuted.
Q: Tony, just to follow on Mike's question, is it the White House position then that the mistakes that were made were limited to improperly informing the federal prosecutors about the reasons for their dismissal, and improperly informing Congress...
SNOW: Members of Congress, yes.
Q: ...that there are no mistakes...
SNOW: And also some of the testimony.
Q: ...and that there were no mistakes made beyond that?
SNOW: Look, these are people who serve at the pleasure of the president. It is perfectly appropriate to replace them.
Q: No, what I'm asking is, what...
SNOW: Yes, well, what do you mean "beyond that"? Tell me, help me out, what kind of metric are you trying to discuss here?
Q: I'm just asking, what were the mistakes?
SNOW: Well, again, I'll refer you back to the Department of Justice because they're the ones who conducted the review.
Q: Was the president aware of this? I mean, if they're serving at his pleasure, was he aware of each case?
SNOW: The president isn't going to micromanage the Department of Justice. What he does is he relies upon the recommendations of the Attorney General and he accepted them.
Question Why was Scott Jennings, someone in the political shop, involved in some of these discussions?
SNOW: Again, we'll look into it and we'll try to get you...
Q: Are you saying, Tony, that there's nothing wrong with White House staffers all the way up to and people including the president saying to Attorney General Gonzales and his people, we're hearing grumblings that you guys aren't moving fast enough on these investigations...
SNOW: Well, no, no, no, you have just mischaracterized. Okay. There are two things. Let me break...
Q: ...the president said he was passing along concerns.
SNOW: The president said that there were general concerns about...
Q: that he was passing along...
SNOW: Yes, but that's it. And as I said...
Q: Nothing more than that?
SNOW: No, of course not. As a matter of fact...
Q: Even though there was an investigation...
SNOW: No, again, you've completely conflated it. No, what you've done is you've tried to say that the president was talking about specific cases. Never did. So when you're talking about the specific cases -- he said, you know, I'm hearing general (reporter interrupts) Please let me finish, and then you can continue, because this is getting to be bad comedy here. Somebody comes to the president and says, "I've got concerns" you hear a number of people with concerns about a general class of cases; the president says, "I hear that there are some concerns about this." That's it. No directive, no attempt to say, go after these people. I mean, we've made it clear, and I think I was pretty crystal-clear about this when I talked to you yesterday, the day before: no specific individuals, no specific cases. Furthermore, it is absolutely appropriate for members of the administration, if somebody complains about something that they think involves a lack of effort on the part of the Department of Justice, to pass it on through appropriate channels. Members of Congress do this all the time. Now, sometimes they do it in front of microphones. You'll see members of Congress complaining about what they think is inappropriate. It happens all the time. And the point I made is if somebody...
Q: It doesn't happen when...
SNOW: ... if somebody says, we've got an allegation of corruption, or we have an allegation of vote fraud, those are serious crimes. But what you don't do is you don't get into the business of the Department of Justice and say, this is how you do it. You simply say, here is a concern we've had, you pass it on to the appropriate people so they can make the appropriate judgments on the merits.
Q: And there was nothing wrong with the president or his aides passing along concerns about groups of ongoing cases?
SNOW: No, of course not. Absolutely not.
Q: In answer to her question about what exactly these people were fired for, you referred her back to the Justice Department.
Q: That's utter obfuscation.
SNOW: No, it's not.
Q: In the emails, it's very clear that they're fired because they weren't on the team.
SNOW: No, that's not true, Bill.
Q: It doesn't allege anything else or any kind of misconduct or under-performance.
SNOW: ... you've gotten a snapshot...
Q: And so you send us back to the Justice Department, which will, of course, tell us nothing because they're an investigation underway.
SNOW: Well, wait a minute, there are still ... first, there is ongoing document review at the White House and document production at DOJ. Second, the Department of Justice has made it clear that the reviews were based on performance. If you call it...
Q: They haven't spelled out what that's about.
SNOW: Well, actually, in some cases they have. And you have to refer to the testimony. But in this particular case -- I'm not going to be fact witness on Justice. They laid out reasons and they -- performance-based reasons.
Q: They didn't lay them out.
SNOW: Yes, they did.
SNOW: We'll get to you what we can.
Q: The Attorney General has said mistakes were made.
Q: The president has agreed mistakes were made.
SNOW: Yes. The mistakes were not...
Q: What mistakes does the president believe were made?
SNOW: Again, let me just be clear. It is perfectly appropriate for the president to replace people who serve at his pleasure. And he does not believe that the mistake was made in replacing people. He has that executive authority. But on the other hand, the way this thing was handled in terms of notifying Capitol Hill, or for that matter, also notifying some of the attorneys, that was not done in a way that meets with the president's full approval, and furthermore, now -- members also went up to brief Capitol Hill and they had not had a full opportunity to review all the documents. And so it's important for everybody to go back and take a good, solid look at everything. But the president stands by the decision to replace seven US attorneys who did serve at his pleasure.
Q: Tony, if Congress goes deeper into why Carol Lam was removed...
Q: Are you confident that there is evidence to show that she was removed not to sidetrack her from the corruption investigations?
SNOW: Absolutely. Absolutely. As a matter of fact, one of the corruption charges was being handled by an entirely different US attorney, up in Los Angeles. No, look, she should -- good for her for prosecuting Duke Cunningham.
Q: Is the White House talking to Republican members of Congress to try to stave off other defections with regard to calling...
SNOW: I don't know, I'm sure there are conversations, but I don't know that I would characterize it that way. What is going to happen is the Attorney General is going to have an opportunity to answer whatever questions or concerns members of both parties may have.
Q: So they are talking to Republican members of Congress?
SNOW: Look, we've got a lot going on right now, Victoria. We're talking every day because we've got a Senate resolution that is under consideration in the next couple of days. The House is looking at the budget supplemental. So we're in constant conversation with Democrats and Republicans. There's a lot of stuff going on on the Hill.