THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY MARY ELLEN GLYNN
The Briefing Room
1:57 P.M. EDT
Q Mary Ellen, can you respond to Dole's statement yesterday that Pennsylvania Avenue should be reopened?
MS. GLYNN: As you know, we took the recommendation of the Secret Service. The President did concur with the Secret Service's recommendation last year to close Pennsylvania Avenue. That was in the wake of an extensive security review that the Treasury Department conducted.
Q So what's your reaction to Bob Dole saying that he now supports the reopening of Pennsylvania Avenue?
MS. GLYNN: I don't have a reaction specifically to that, though I would say we always take the recommendation of the Secret Service. We think their concerns were well-founded.
Q Is the White House rethinking its position?
MS. GLYNN: No.
Q Who did the President meet with today at 2:00 p.m. insofar as congressional leaders and law enforcement, and what is the purpose of the meeting?
MS. GLYNN: He's meeting with a bipartisan group of congressional members -- Senators Lott, Daschle, Hatch, Biden, Speaker Gingrich, Representatives Gephardt, Hyde and Conyors will be there as well; the President, the Vice President, the Attorney General, FBI Director Freeh and, I believe the Deputy Secretary of Defense John White, Ray Kelly who is the Under Secretary for Enforcement at Treasury, and Larry Summers who is the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
Q What is the purpose of this meeting this afternoon?
MS. GLYNN: I'm sorry?
Q What do you hope will come out it?
MS. GLYNN: As the President said yesterday, I think we want to look at some ways to make some amendments to or change the terrorism legislation that was passed and signed into law last year. Specifically, we want to look at taggants and broader wire-tapping authority. That was left out of last year's bill. I don't know if you remember then, but when the President signed it, he mentioned that those were two things that he'd like to see in the bill.
Q Is that all? How about the use of the military for chemical and biological weapon investigation?
MS. GLYNN: Why don't we see what comes out of the meeting?
Q Mary Ellen, now that we have audio again, could you tell us what the White House reaction is to Senator Dole's suggestion that there are better ways to protect the President than closing Pennsylvania Avenue?
MS. GLYNN: As you know, we take the recommendation of the Secret Service very seriously. They conducted a thorough security review last year and concluded that the closure of Pennsylvania Avenue was warranted at this time.
Q Is that a closed issue now? There's no chance of reversing that?
MS. GLYNN: Unless the Secret Service and the Department of the Treasury recommends otherwise, yes. And as you know, we've been going forward with plans to turn it into what some believe is a very lovely park.
Q Mary Ellen, on the wire-tapping expansion, would this be virtually all of the elements of the expanded wire-tapping that were in the President's original post-Oklahoma City proposal?
MS. GLYNN: Yes, that's what we had hoped --
Q -- wiretaps, additional crime susceptible to federal wiretap couldn't be disallowed in court unless show of signs of bad faith, all those kind of elements?
MS. GLYNN: All those kinds of elements are what we'll be seeking. I mean, one of the reasons we'd like a roving wiretap, as you know, is because people -- now a wiretap is on an individual line as opposed to an individual. So you could go from phone to phone, from cell phone to pay phone to et cetera, et cetera. So they'll be discussing the scope of that in this meeting.
Q Congressman Gingrich -- Speaker Gingrich's comments yesterday notwithstanding, what makes the White House think that the climate has changed so much that that unusual alliance of right wing and left wing opposition to this proposal has really changed? Their comments don't seem to have changed very much.
MS. GLYNN: Well, for one, a bombing at the Olympics yesterday, an act which -- or three days ago -- an act which we think is abhorrent and shouldn't be -- should not be tolerated.
Q Mary Ellen, could you tell us why the administration has recalled Defense Secretary Perry, forcing him to cancel a meeting with the Saudis on security?
MS. GLYNN: I could not. I think that's an appropriate question for the Department of Defense.
Q They have no reply. That's why I was asking.
MS. GLYNN: If they have no reply --
MR. JOHNSON: He completed his meetings in Australia and returned over the weekend, and we would refer you to DOD for a comment on his future travel plans.
Q Could I follow up? Is there a problem with the meeting that was scheduled with the Saudis?
MR. JOHNSON: I'm unaware of any meeting which we announced about his forthcoming travel plans.
Q President Mubarak will be meeting with the President tomorrow. What is it that we want him to do with regard to the Middle East peace process? What will he be asking him to do?
MR. JOHNSON: When we are frequently asked about instructions we might be providing or suggestions we might be providing to the parties in the process we have a rather consistent refrain, and that is we found that we can be most helpful in assisting the parties and making progress when we make those suggestions, we make those comments privately.
We will have an opportunity -- the President will have an opportunity to meet President Mubarak to go over some of the issues that he wishes to raise about the peace process. You know that he has recently hosted a summit of Arab leaders; he's recently met with Prime Minister Netanyahu; and he's also recently met with the United States Middle East peace team. So there's a number of issues that will come up during the course of those meetings. But in the past we think it's most helpful for the United States and the most helpful in terms of helping the process move forward if we make those privately rather than we give those types of suggestions publicly.
Q Mary Ellen, what's the logistical plan for the follow-up or briefing or readout of this meeting at 2:00 p.m.?
MS. GLYNN: We'll probably do some sort of a gaggle -- Barry Toiv will be sitting in on the meeting, so you will get a briefing from him.
Q Would you expect the Attorney General or Director Freeh to come do something?
MS. GLYNN: Let's just leave that for later. I'm not sure.
Q Is the meeting scheduled for about an hour?
MS. GLYNN: Yes, around an hour.
Q What time would the briefing be?
MS. GLYNN: Oh, 3:00 p.m. or so. So I imagine some people will go to the stakeout, too.
Q And do you expect the congressional people will go to the stakeout or go back to the Hill, or have they told you their plans?
MS. GLYNN: They have not told us their plan. I'm sure they're going to talk about that in this meeting, but I think you can probably expect some comment from them after the meeting.
Q If they do go to the stakeout, could Barry work his comments around that?
MS. GLYNN: Absolutely. We always accommodate you.
Q Do you know on the issue of taggants, whether the discussion about putting it in -- might extend to other chemical agents like fertilizers or other common --
MS. GLYNN: I think it will, in fact, extend to that. That's what they're going to talk about now.
Q So it's not just limited to what the President made mention of?
MS. GLYNN: Right, exactly. It's a full range of options.
Q What about the question of law enforcement getting access to encrypted computer data and certain kinds of standardizations?
MS. GLYNN: I haven't specifically heard that they're going to discuss that. But as I say, I think they'll be having the discussion of a full range of things that were not, for various reasons, included in the terrorism bill.
Q Included in the bill as passed was a very elaborate process with relation to plastics and other kinds of explosives, Treasury study over the next year and specific approval of Congress and going back to approve it. Will there be discussion of that, perhaps streamlining the process? Streamlining the process or changing it or amending it to make things simpler and faster with regard to tagging plastic explosives?
MS. GLYNN: I'm not aware of any discussions like that. As you know, that's what their -- I think Ambassador Wilcox spoke to that.
Q Do you have any paper on all this, or will you expect to?
MS. GLYNN: No, I don't have any paper on it and I will probably not have any paper. But we'll try and give you as full a readout as we can muster.
Q Mary Ellen, given the congressional schedule, if you do get an agreement of some kind in this meeting today, what's your best hope as to when you can get a bill on the President's desk?
MS. GLYNN: I'm not in a position to discuss that right now, because I don't know what's going to come out of the meeting. I mean, obviously, we had hoped for these powers a year and a half ago in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing, so we would hope as soon as possible. But I'm not in a position to predict that.
Q The President said he was encouraged by Speaker Gingrich's comments yesterday. Was the White House surprised by Speaker Gingrich's comments in light of his alliance with the NRA the last time around?
MS. GLYNN: I wouldn't say surprised. I'd say pleasantly surprised.
Q The prospect of presidential travel this Saturday to New Jersey, that's off now?
MS. GLYNN: A little unclear. We'll just have to update you as the week goes on. It's unclear.
Q It still remains a possibility?
MS. GLYNN: Right.
Q Mary Ellen, I don't know if you've dealt with this up to this point, but as far as the congressional meeting is concerned, Bob Barr has already told reporters today that as far as he's concerned he's seen nothing whatsoever in the past several days that would change his mind in the slightest on taggants, wiretaps or anything else, and that he foresees no prospect of any movement in the House. Do you all have --
MS GLYNN: Well, Speaker Gingrich indicated otherwise on television yesterday, so I think that's what they're going to be discussing, or are discussing as we speak.
Q Speaker Gingrich -- I thought he wasn't able to do much the last time around. Do you expect that something --
MS. GLYNN: We have confidence that he will help us out on this issue.
Q Is the President supposed to sign the traumatic brain act --- is there a statement about that?
MS. GLYNN: There will be a statement later. I'll have -- H.R. 248.
Q The traumatic brain act?
MS. GLYNN: It's an act that passed, I believe, by voice vote not too long ago
Q Any, Mary Ellen, any guidance on pesticide?
MS. GLYNN: No guidance on any other bill signings this week, but as you know, we've got lots of legislation coming to us, so we'll just update when I have more to that.
Q Will the briefing be in this room, Mary Ellen, on the meeting today?
MS. GLYNN: Probably, yes.
Q And you're going to brief or Barry's going to brief?
MS. GLYNN: I'm going to make Barry brief.
MS. GLYNN: Yes.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 2:08 P.M. EDT