Today’s Qs for O’s WH – 5/13/2009

By Caitlin Taylor

May 13, 2009 3:27pm

A rambunctious press briefing today, with many questions about President Obama’s change of mind regarding the release of photos detailing alleged detainee abuse. Also: lots of interruptions by reporters apparently unfamiliar with the "vibrate" function on their cell phones. What follows is some of the exchange, with cell phone silliness edited out.

GIBBS (answering previous question):  The president doesn’t believe the release of a photo surrounding that investigation does the anything to illuminate the existence of that investigation, only to provide some portion of sensationality.

TAPPER:  Robert, is that really his role to decide whether or not it illuminates?  That’s not the president of the United States’ role to decide, well, this is information will illuminate for the people, and this information isn’t… 

GIBBS:  No, the — the — the role of the president in this situation is as commander-in-chief.  And if he determines that, through the release of these photos, that they pose a threat to those that serve to protect our freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan through the illumination of whatever, he can make a determination to ask his legal team to go back to court and make a legal argument that he doesn’t believe was made and provides the most salient case and most important points for not releasing these photos. Those determinations are, indeed, made by this president and — and — and are being made…

TAPPER:  The Bush administration has obviously made the argument that releasing these specific photographs will endanger troops, and they did so in the way that you described, with — with seeking the FOIA exemption for law enforcement personnel.
GIBBS:  Right.
TAPPER:  The second circuit court ruled against that, saying that — that it’s not meant — that exemption is not intended, quote, "as all-purpose damper on global controversy."  What is this new argument that the president wants his team to present?…   

GIBBS: The president believes that the specific case surrounding the damage that would be done to our troops and our national security has not fully been developed and put in front of the court to make. That’s the — the case that the legal team will now make. The Department of Justice will seek to look for different avenues, as I said earlier, likely seek a stay…
TAPPER:  With the Supreme Court?
GIBBS:  Well, you can seek a stay with an additional judge.  Then the June 8 deadline also is for — for an appeal to the Supreme Court…      

TAPPER:  The specific avenue that your — that your legal team’s going to go, you’re not sure if it’s going to be going back to the district court or…
GIBBS:  I don’t know the — I’ll check with — put that — we’ll check with — with those guys specifically.  I think, in some ways, they’re looking at whether it is to go to a lower court or to go to the Supreme Court.
TAPPER:  And then just to follow up on the new argument, so are there specific — is there specific case law arguments that the president knows that exist that were not used?  Because it’s — I find it hard to believe that the Bush administration didn’t turn under every rock to try to find an argument to do this.
GIBBS:  Well, the president doesn’t believe that was the case. And the president, after reviewing the case, believes that — that we have a compelling argument.
TAPPER:  Could you let us know what those new arguments are?
GIBBS:  Yes.
TAPPER:  Thank you.

- jpt

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