THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY BARRY TOIV
The Briefing Room
4:05 P.M. EDT
MR. TOIV: The President and Vice President had a very productive meeting with the congressional leadership and other members of Congress. It was a cooperative spirit, very sober tone. And it ended about 3:30 p.m. I think it began around 2:30 p.m.
They began with updates from the FBI on the investigation of the Atlanta bombing and then on the TWA crash and also on the Saudi bombing. And they then moved on to the legislation that the administration is proposing. The Attorney General and others laid out the ideas that the administration is sending up, most of which were part of the antiterrorism that were dropped from that bill. But there were a couple new ones as well. And they also discussed funding issues.
The legislation was discussed for quite a while, and what they decided was that Mr. Panetta will meet tomorrow on the Hill with members of Congress from the appropriate committees that deal with these issues, as well as with members of the leadership, and they are going to work very hard to try to produce a legislative and funding package by the end of week, before Congress goes into its recess, that would address at least some of these issues by then.
Q Produce and pass or produce and get --
MR. TOIV: Pass -- that's right.
Q Is it safe to say the taggant provision will not be in the --
MR. TOIV: Well, that is one of the -- the taggant study is one of the issues that was certainly proposed. And I don't think it's safe to say yet what will or will not be in the final package.
Q Didn't they pass the taggant study but didn't fund it -- isn't that the problem?
MR. TOIV: That's part of the problem. Part of the request was to fund the -- provide funding for the taggant study. In addition, though, we are suggesting that the study be shortened and that it include black powder and smokeless powder, that those be included in the study. They are not at this time.
Q Can you run down the provisions in the administration's proposal?
MR. TOIV: I do not have a detailed list of the provisions. You can assume, though, that the taggant study is one of those issues, as well as the issue of roving wiretaps. There are several others, as well.
Q Military involvement and chemical and the nuclear --
MR. TOIV: That's not something that is actually in the proposals.
Q It's not in the proposals?
Q It was last time, right? In the original bill, after Oklahoma City, that the military involvement was part of a package.
MR. TOIV: That was discussed in the meeting, but beyond that I don't have anything else.
Q Barry, when you say there were some elements that were new in the last, you know, 48 -- whatever -- 72 hours, can you say which of those were that weren't in part of the Omnibus Bill of --
MR. TOIV: I do not have -- we may have later the list of the actual proposals and be able to break them up for you, but we don't have them right now.
Q You're talking about funding for these measures or funding for the FBI generally?
MR. TOIV: They're funding for a number of ideas.
Q How much?
MR. TOIV: Well, that's -- they're going to discuss that.
Q Including more money for the FBI?
MR. TOIV: I'm not going to get into specifics of what they're going to -- they're going to talk about this tomorrow.
Q Did the Republican leaders give the President a commitment to complete and pass a legislative package by the end of the week, or just that --
MR. TOIV: Everybody committed to make an effort to do that, a bipartisan effort.
Q Did they talk about any other issues that are, obviously, pending legislatively, like welfare or anything like that?
MR. TOIV: No, they didn't. It was strictly -- the issues were strictly limited to this.
Q Did they talk at all about the G-7 meeting tomorrow in Paris and about legislation to press for sanctions against Iran and Libya?
MR. TOIV: They did not really get into that. They really focused on the legislative effort on the Hill.
Q Barry, just to be clear, the President presented them with a list of things he'd like them to do, but you don't -- but you can't tell us what they are? Is that right?
MR. TOIV: They have not produced paper on this and I don't know if they're going to do that, or not.
Q They being the White House?
MR. TOIV: No -- I'm sorry, we haven't.
Q So you presented them with a list of things --
MR. TOIV: But we did present them with a list, yes.
Q And 16 different things, is that right? Is that how many you said?
MR. TOIV: No, I said seven.
Q Seven different things? But some of them -- some of those things involved more extensive use of wiretaps, right? I mean, some of them were related to wiretaps?
MR. TOIV: That's right.
Q One of the things that Senator Hatch just came out and mentioned was that terrorism would be a predicate for RICO, is that right?
MR. TOIV: That's another.
Q So if I just keep listing them, you'll --
MR. TOIV: What I hope is that we will be able to get -- be authorized to give you a whole --
Q We could say that one of the proposals is that --
MR. TOIV: But we don't have that right now.
Q -- terrorists would be prosecuted under the racketeering laws? Is that correct? That's what RICO is.
MR. TOIV: Yes, that's right.
Q Biden mentioned making it legal to on Internet or any way teach how to make a bomb, having reasonable belief that it would be used to produce a bomb.
MR. TOIV: That was not among the proposals the administration sent up. It was brought up at the meeting, and it's something we will probably consider. But it was not among the proposals.
Q Okay, but so we know that there are a number of different wiretap provisions. We know that there are several of those. There's RICO, and there is not -- there's tagging, but tagging --
MR. TOIV: It's a study of taggants.
Q A study of tagging, as opposed to actual --
MR. TOIV: There is a study that's already authorized.
Q Funding for the study and expanding the study.
MR. TOIV: An expansion, that's right.
Q And shortening the time.
MR. TOIV: Right.
Q But not a direct -- but not directly ordering tagging?
MR. TOIV: Correct.
Q Okay. Anything -- any other --
Q Extending statutes of limitations involving terrorism -- that's another one?
Q Extending statutes of limitations?
MR. TOIV: What I would like to do, rather than to play this game, is to see what we can get in terms of actual information on the proposals.
Q Because for those of us who are on deadline --
Q Just tell us what they are --
Q Is there some reason you're not allowed to tell us what they are? I mean, is this --
MR. TOIV: I've told you about all I can about them right now.
Q It's after 4:00 p.m. now. Are you hopeful in the next hour or so you can tell us -- we have stories to right and stuff -- just tell us the seven things? Are you hopeful you can do that today?
MR. TOIV: Yes. But I can't promise it.
Q Well, come on. You know, don't be ridiculous. You know, I'm trying to be nice to you, but I'm going to be rude to you if you can't promise it. You sat in the meeting. You're the designated White House briefer. Senators and leaders of the Congress of the United States have stood in the driveway of the White House briefing us, and I think you better find a way in the next hour to arrange to tell what the White House's version of it is, or all the stories will reflect what the Congress people said and won't have the White House viewpoint, in which case you will have failed in your assignment. I don't mean to be rude, but, you know, there's a limit.
MR. TOIV: I know you don't. I know you don't. And I do hope to get it for you.
Q And, Barry, what is a pen register? That was another subject the administration --
MR. TOIV: A pen register has to do with dialing of -- phone numbers dialed. I don't have -- beyond that, I really don't know.
Q It's a wiretap that registers the phone numbers but not the actual conversations.
MR. TOIV: That's correct.
Q Barry, everybody says that they want something to go through this week. Would you be satisfied --
Q Because I was a Supreme Court correspondent.
Q Would you be satisfied with something that doesn't include this study, puts that off for down the road and something that doesn't include various elements of the wiretap measure?
MR. TOIV: Well, I'm going to -- I can't -- I'm not going to negotiate that here. I mean, they're going to discuss this tomorrow when Mr. Panetta goes up to the Hill, and so I don't think I can tell you what we would be satisfied with or not satisfied with until that happens.
Q Barry, is it fair to say that the taggants is the big problem and not the wiretapping?
MR. TOIV: Well, I think that it was a very constructive discussion on all those issues, and I don't think I can label one issue as being easier or more difficult than any other.
Q You were in the meeting. Was there more contention over one than another?
MR. TOIV: I'm not going to get into --
Q If everybody figured that the wiretap issue --
MR. TOIV: There was a good discussion of a number of the issues, and that's --
Q It would seem that there ought to be some indication as to whether two sides were diametrically opposed over one issue and on another one were saying, yes, we could do that.
MR. TOIV: I think the feeling in the room was that we ought to give the process a chance to work its way through a little bit, work its way through these issues a little bit before -- and see if we can actually get something accomplished on these issues. So I don't have anything to say about the specific conversation.
Q Will you put out an all-call if you can give us the list?
MR. TOIV: Sure.
Q What are the legislative options folks are looking at as far as conference reports and so forth?
MR. TOIV: Well, I think we'd probably be better off waiting to see what they do tomorrow. I mean, there are obviously a number of bills going through. There are appropriations bills going through and I think they're going to try and look what might make good options tomorrow.
Q Well, will we know by the end of tomorrow or by tomorrow?
MR. TOIV: I think tomorrow will be an important -- will be important in those discussions. Whether we'll know at the end I can't tell you for sure.
Q Barry, would you describe the meeting as everyone working in the same spirit or were there people who -- you know, sometimes at the budget meetings everybody started out saying, oh, we all want to get a budget, and then it kind of broke down. What was the ambiance like?
MR. TOIV: I think the feeling was -- and it was kind of summed up by the President at the end -- was let's go forward in a bipartisan spirit and try and work through these issues. Obviously, there have been differences on some of these issues; let's try and see what we can accomplish in a bipartisan way.
Q Is there anything that is on this list that the President wants so badly that he would not sign a bill that did not have it in it? In other words, would he take half the loaf?
MR. TOIV: I think we'd be better off waiting to see what happens tomorrow.
Q -- issue of his troops and a repeat of the problems that they had before? Bob Barr has already downplayed the possibility of reaching an agreement on a couple of these issues.
MR. TOIV: I'm sorry?
Q The guy who led the very conservative House members the last time in defeating a bunch of the pieces of the terrorism bill has already said he was going to do it again. Did the Speaker raise any of that during the course of the meeting and warn of problems with his troops?
MR. TOIV: They talked about the legislative process and the fact that some of these issues have been contentious in the past. But they did not draw any conclusions.
Q What were each sides' marching order about what they were supposed to try to do tonight prior to this meeting tomorrow -- sort of get their own ducks in a row about what they thought was realistic to do this week and have a list of what they'd put in a --
MR. TOIV: I don't know that it was laid out specifically in that way. But that obviously is what all sides need to do, is to think --
Q Sort of return to their corners and --
MR. TOIV: Right.
Q What time is the meeting tomorrow?
MR. TOIV: It hasn't been set.
Q It's on the Hill?
MR. TOIV: Yes.
Q Did they talk about anything else -- welfare reform?
MR. TOIV: No, they did not talk about any of the other issues. It was strictly this.
Q Did I hear you say the other meeting is tomorrow morning? You don't know what time it is?
MR. TOIV: Probably tomorrow morning. There was a desire to get going on it early. The problem is that members have so much going on right now that -- with conferences and what have you, that it's a little difficult to set a time sitting in that meeting. But hopefully, we'll know soon.
Q Who will be in the meeting with Mr. Panetta?
MR. TOIV: We don't know which individuals will be in there. It will be members of Congress from the appropriate committees, potentially the chairman and ranking members and also representatives of the leadership. But who the specific members will be we don't know yet.
Q Do we have another meeting here at the White House with the President and the leaders tomorrow?
MR. TOIV: They did not discuss doing that.
Q Senator Gregg is supposed to have an anticrime package in his appropriations they mark up tomorrow. Is what you're doing going to be rolled into that package?
MR. TOIV: Well, that proposal was mentioned at the meeting. And they will -- that's among the things that will be discussed tomorrow.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 4:19 P.M. EDT