Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 4/24/2009

Apr 24, 2009 3:46pm

TAPPER: You keep suggesting that the release of these documents and now photographs is because your hand is being forced. You could appeal this to the Supreme Court if you wanted to, so I guess –

GIBBS: Yes — I don’t — I’d — I — I’d — let me make sure that I — I’m careful. I — I’d — this is part of a legal process. The Justice Department, as I said to Ben, decided that — much as they did, and I think, as you heard, I was asked about Secretary Gates’s comments yesterday, and I think it’s important to understand what Secretary Gates — part of what Secretary Gates said, which was, most of this stuff’s going to come out eventually. I don’t mean to imply that the only avenue is this, but I do think it is important for people to understand that there is ongoing litigation that in many ways is the property lines for this issue.

TAPPER: I understand that, but you’re acting as if you guys aren’t actors in this.

GIBBS: No, no, no –

TAPPER: You are releasing information when you could be fighting it.

GIBBS: No, no. I’d — I’m not minimizing our role in this. I’m, Jake, trying to give you and others a — just the appropriate amount of background for all that is entailed in the litigation and these decisions to –

TAPPER: Okay. Well, would the president support releasing this information even if his hands weren’t forced?

GIBBS: Yeah, I — and I told Ben (Feller of AP) I’d check on that.

TAPPER: All right. Well, let me ask you a question about — did the president tell Democratic leaders this week when they — when he met with them, when he talked to them, that he didn’t want there to be any sort of hearing or commission, that he thought that that would be a distraction?

GIBBS: I was not in the meeting with Democratic leaders. I will reiterate what the president has said throughout the week, and that is — and, as I said a second ago, that this should be a moment of reflection but not retribution. And I said this yesterday, that the — you know, the president, through a series of meetings, discussed the idea of setting up a commission and decided that much of what we’ve seen play out over the past few days would dominate any type of commission and decided that wasn’t something that he would propose or call for.

TAPPER: So is he worried with the release of the OLC documents, the release of the photographs and all the attention this is getting not just among us but on Capitol Hill? Is he worried that he has, perhaps, inadvertently — or perhaps forced by courts — created a path where there will be a look back and retribution, and his political agenda could be jeopardized?

GIBBS: I don’t think the president’s worried about that. I think the president took swift action to change our image in the world. The most important thing that the president’s done in — relating to this topic in the last 95 days is to ensure that the techniques that were described in those OLC memos are no longer the policy of this government. I think that tends to get glossed over a bit in all of this back and forth. But no, the president’s not concerned that this is going to distract from a larger agenda. I think the American people are focused on moving forward. And, you know, the president has answered this question on commissions for months now, and his notion of looking forward and not backward has not changed.

– jpt

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