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Special Event

Fleischer Discusses Bush's Agenda Items in Daily Briefing

Aired January 31, 2001 - 12:40 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go from here over to the White House, where Press Secretary Ari Fleischer is starting his afternoon briefing. We're going to listen in.

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Thank you for joining us. Can you hear me now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

FLEISCHER: No overhead? Still not working? Five, four, three, two, no overhead?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's working on it.

FLEISCHER: OK. There you go.

Thank you very much for coming.

I'd like to draw your attention this morning to a new study that has been released by the group called Independent Sector, which is a very large collection of organizations that work for charity in this country. It is a study conducted by the firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers that analyzed the impact of President Bush's proposal to allow some 80 million Americans to receive a deduction for the amount of money they give to charity. Currently, 80 million Americans, most of who are low- to middle-income, are not allowed to deduct their charitable giving.

This study states that the president's deduction will stimulate an additional $14.6 billion per year in additional charitable giving, representing an 11 percent increase in donations to charity across the country. That totals $80 billion over five years and will create more than 11.7 million new givers to charity.

The study also points out that the greatest increase in giving will come from low- to middle-income taxpayers.

Part of the president's vision for this country and part of the compassion that he sees is empowering individual Americans to do more to help their fellow citizens in need, and he's very heartened to note the results of this study.

QUESTION: Did he commission the study?

FLEISCHER: No, he did not.

QUESTION: Who did?

FLEISCHER: Independent Sector.

QUESTION: Who?

FLEISCHER: The Independent Sector.

QUESTION: Like who?

FLEISCHER: That's the name of an organization, The Independent Sector. It's a longstanding organization. I think they represent -- it's an umbrella group that represents, I believe, some 700 charities nationwide.

QUESTION: Do they also represent the tax...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... use that as an estimate of how much the deduction will cost?

FLEISCHER: No, because that represents additional giving and there's likely to be some type...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... reduction, though. I mean, it's...

FLEISCHER: But you don't know what -- when you take a deduction, you don't know if the giver is in the 15 percent bracket, the 28 to -- or what bracket they're in, so you can't make a straight-line deduction from that deduction.

QUESTION: But if the study says...

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: Can you give us an estimate of how much it will cost?

FLEISCHER: The cost of it?

QUESTION: Yes.

FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the taxpayer cost.

QUESTION: If the study shows it's mostly middle and lower income, wouldn't that tell you it's in the 28 to 15 tax bracket?

FLEISCHER: Typically, that would be right.

QUESTION: Well, did you make a calculation based on that?

QUESTION: Ari, on the Lockerbie case, 18 advocates and relatives are not sure if the whole truth ever will be revealed in the case.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

FLEISCHER: Well, I think you heard the president address that question this morning, and he expressed his views about the case, and I have nothing to contribute beyond what the president said.

QUESTION: Did the CIA ever release those documents that were denied to -- presented to the defense in the case?

FLEISCHER: I would refer you to the CIA.

QUESTION: Ari, Charles Rangel was at the mike earlier today, at the stakeout, and he said that tonight's meeting with Bush, with the CBC, would be one that is difficult. He cited that the CBC will bring up the issue of election reform. What is the White House's view on the fact that they are already saying that it's going to be difficult, and he's doing this to try to bring everybody together?

FLEISCHER: I think that's why the president is having the meeting. He understands that there are certain things that are going to be easier than others, other things that may not be so easy. But the president has one approach to governing, and he expressed it in his Inaugural Address, and that is, he is going to be the president for all people in this country, no matter whether they voted for him or not. And this meeting is part of his ongoing outreach effort to members of Congress, including the Congressional Black Congress.

QUESTION: What are his thoughts about election reform, in light that many African-Americans feel that they were slighted going to the polls.

FLEISCHER: The president is open-minded on the question of election reform. As part of the effort in the Congress to enact campaign finance reform, some have suggested also taking a look at election reform. In and of itself, our nation needs to take a look at its election laws, in the president's opinion.

There are some important lessons to be learned from the 2000 presidential election, including access to the polls, including the question of military people having the right to vote, including the effect of different projections of the vote before polling places were closed and whether or not that affected turnout. So there are a series of issues that need to be looked at that affect people from all walks of life, all voters.

QUESTION: How long is this meeting supposed to last? FLEISCHER: Forty-five minutes.

QUESTION: Ari, I wanted to ask you, when the president meets with his Cabinet today, who will be representing the Justice Department?

FLEISCHER: The acting attorney general of the Justice Department is Eric Holder.

(CROSSTALK)

FLEISCHER: I'll anticipate he'll be there, yes.

QUESTION: And you will have the two people who were approved yesterday, Gail Norton and...

FLEISCHER: If they've been sworn-in, they will be there. And so that's just a technical matter of whether they've been sworn-in.

QUESTION: Ari, I just wanted to follow up on the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Rangel came out and told reporters that in his meeting with the president, the president indicated that he would be positive, but that if the other side wasn't going to be positive, that he could not be positive as well.

FLEISCHER: I think the president's approach is to always be positive. And I think that he's going to go into this meeting -- his agenda for the meeting is to talk about education, to talk about faith-based programs that he believed are a solution to a lot of societies most attractable problems. He's going to be there to listen, and he looks forward to the meeting. He knows that there are other items that people want to talk about. That's why he's going to listen. And he's hopeful that the people he's meeting with will also want to listen to him. And I think they will be.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? Does Congressman Rangel, then, have the incorrect perception of what President Bush conveyed to him? Because he came out and told reporters that...

FLEISCHER: Well, it's possible the congressman and the president had a conversation that I didn't overhear.

QUESTION: Ari, both The Washington Post and the Washington Times reported that in Baltimore, federal Judge William Nickerson ruled against both the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Justice Department, saying, and this is a quote, "Censorship on the part of the government is impermissible under the First Amendment," when these Clinton departments tried to stop the display of the Confederate flag over a Confederate cemetery in Point Lookout, Maryland. And if the president disagrees with Judge Nickerson, you would surely know about it, wouldn't you, Ari?

FLEISCHER: I really have not heard anything on that federal case.

QUESTION: So he obviously does not disagree with this judge.

FLEISCHER: No, I haven't had a chance to review the federal case in question that you're raising.

QUESTION: Ari, on the Ashcroft nomination, does the president believe that Ashcroft has received unfair treatment? Or is the level of scrutiny appropriate given some of his positions that he's taken in the past?

FLEISCHER: I haven't heard the president say that he has received unfair treatment. I think the president, however -- you heard him, the president said that in the spirit of bipartisanship he hopes that there will not be delays in the vote on Senator Ashcroft. And I believe that the Senate has heard his message; it appears that the vote will indeed take place this week, which is appropriate.

The president is concerned about enforcing the nation's laws and making sure that we fight crime, that we enforce civil rights laws, that we start making appointments to the other positions at the Department of Justice. To do all that, you have to have an attorney general in place.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? Does that suggest that in fact he disagrees with some top Republicans on Capitol Hill who do in fact think that Ashcroft has gotten unfair treatment, that it's been overly partisan and nasty and reminiscent of Robert Bork and all the rest?

FLEISCHER: Well, again, the president is going to focus and look ahead and -- well, he will welcome the final confirmation into his Cabinet. We've had tremendous progress. The number of people who have been appointed has been a very encouraging sign about more bipartisanship to come.

There have been some troubling things, I think, that were done in the confirmation process; things, for example, the number of written questions submitted to Senator Ashcroft is approximately 400 from the Senate Judiciary Committee. When Janet Reno was being confirmed, the number of written questions submitted to her were some 30 or 40.

QUESTION: So you don't think that there were more questions that were important to be asked, or you think it was just unfair treatment? I mean, you said the president doesn't think it was unfair.

FLEISCHER: I haven't heard him say that it was unfair. I think the president indicated yesterday what he thought about the process, and he hopes that it will be concluded, and concluded in a manner that our nation can have an attorney general, so we can get the important work of the attorney general under way.

QUESTION: Ari, will you visit west coast power, just for a moment? As I'm sure you know, there's a meeting in Portland, Oregon, on Friday with the new energy secretary and 10 western governors. Is that a hand-wringing meeting? And, if not, what is this administration bringing to the table? Up till now, you readily admit that there's nothing the Bush administration can do or is willing to do to help California in its short-term problem.

FLEISCHER: I'd refer you to the Department of Energy for the agenda for that meeting.

FLEISCHER: Obviously, Secretary of Energy Abraham is going, and so I think you'd probably get a little bit more information talking with him.

It's a meeting of western governors. Of course, the governor of California will be at that meeting as well. And I think when people in the West start to look at this issue, they realize that there are regional implications that are both helpful and harmful to people, depending on what decisions are made. There are other states outside California which will experience difficulties in shipping all their energy to California. And so there are regional issues that need to be talked about, and that's why I think the secretary views it as a constructive meeting.

PHILLIPS: White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer giving his daily briefing for the important agenda items on the president's slate, more on the newest proposal, tax reduction for faith-based giving.

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