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Mike Pence Holds Press Conference

Aired October 27, 2001 - 11:05   ET


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN ANCHOR: We want to get to this news conference that is underway regarding the spread of anthrax to another congressional building.


REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: ... another attack on our national government has failed. That as Christian believers in our family, we believe that the safest place in the world is to be in the center of God's will. And we know that this privilege of serving the people of Indiana in Congress is God's will for our life at this time.

And so we begin today thanking Him from our hearts for protecting our family, our three small children, protecting the brave and hardworking young people that flank us here on our staff here in Washington, D.C., protecting the citizens who came in and out of the Longworth Office Building from this unseen menace.

Truly, as the Bible says, "It is good for me to be near God. I have made the sovereign Lord my refuge so I will tell of all your deeds."

To the people that we serve in Indiana, our word is to be confident. Know that my family and our staff are all well and in good health and show no signs of any infection. We will all be tested for exposure, and we will all begin prophylactic treatment of antibiotics after I leave this press conference today.

But I want the people that I serve to know that they should not be alarmed by these revelations. They should be encouraged. This is an example of the system working, of the Capitol security and health officials on Capitol Hill doing their job with force and effectiveness, and enabling all of us to continue to serve the people of east-central Indiana, their values and their needs with genuine commitment and consistency, even in these difficult days.

To the people who did this, wherever they are, our message to you is simply this: You have failed again. You have failed to reach your target. And you have failed in a much more profound way, for, by this act, you have further steeled the resolve of every member of this national government whose duty it is to either bring you to justice or seal your fate.

And finally, a word to the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and to the minority leader, Dick Gephardt, and others in the leadership in both parties in the Congress who have been much maligned for their decision to close the House office buildings and adjourn a day early.

From my heart, on behalf of my family and the families that stand with me today, thank you, thank you for putting the safety of my family and the safety of the staff that serve on this hill so courageously ahead of your own concerns about public relations and image.

I say to the people that I serve that these times have fallen on broad shoulders, men and women who are willing to make the difficult choices, our troops in the field, our investigators across the country, the postal workers on the front line of this domestic war.

And all of the public should know that God, who put this country on these shores, has placed strong men and women in the leadership of our national government for such a time as this. It is said that fear is useless; what is needed is trust. And today we find yet one more reason to trust in the national government that has, again, earned our trust this day.

With that, I would like to introduce Commander Greg Martin, who is the head of infectious disease at Bethesda Naval Hospital. And also, we'll hear from Lieutenant Dan Nichols, both of whom represent efforts here on Capitol Hill that have just been doing a magnificent job seeing to it that the people's business can go forward.



Again, I just want to reemphasize what the congressman stated. These are low levels of contamination. This is it not like in Senator Daschle's office, where we had an envelope with a lot of the spores. And we are just taking safety's stake and looking at all of the people who were actually in that office, who had visited us in that office, and we'll be treating them with 60 days of doxycycline, which is what the CDC is now recommending because we are fortunate to have a very sensitive organism.

We are not putting everybody who is in that building on medication, as has been reported in some of the newspapers.

Again, it is only the three congressional offices that we have found levels -- low levels of contamination. That's all I have.


LT. DAN NICHOLS, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Lieutenant Dan Nichols. I am spokesman with U.S. Capitol Police.

Today I'm representing not only the U.S. Capitol police, but the team of health care and environmental specialists that have been pulled together. These people have expertise that is the best in the nation. And I'm speaking on their behalf. And the appreciation and confidence that the congressman has expressed, is very much appreciated.

And we have risen to this occasion. We're continuing to vigorously investigate this. The FBI is leading the criminal investigation. And we're working very hard to make sure that the person or persons who perpetrated this crime on the United States Congress will be brought to justice. That's our goal.

Our goal also is to ensure the safety and security of the congressional community. And we're continuing in that regard. We're continuing to find areas where there is contamination. When we do find that, in the interest of public safety, those areas of course are going to be closed and they will be remediated.

But the confidence the congressional community has shown in the police department and the health care environmental experts is appreciated. And we will rise to the occasion.

Thank you.

PENCE: Thank you, Dan.

Any questions?

QUESTION: Yes, Mike, are you following up with a list of everybody who was in your office Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and contacting them? Or could you go through the procedures that you're using to reach people who...

PENCE: It's extremely important, and I'm grateful to the Indiana media for sharing the information that health officials have urged us to encourage everyone who has been in our office since the close of business on October the 11th to begin immediately to obtain and utilize an antibiotic regimen under their doctor's consultation. They obviously also should be tested.

My scheduler is with us today. We're all going to be working through the weekend to identify individuals who appeared on our official schedule. We'll be contacting them personally.

But we're very grateful that the news media across Indiana and hopefully here in Washington can inform all of those that that may not have been on the schedule, but came into either our office or Congressman Baldacci or Congressman Holt's office during this time.

QUESTION: Were there any school groups in your office those few days?

PENCE: Time passes here so quickly that there have been some children, some families, who have been in Washington in the last week, courageously coming here even in difficult times.

I have met some of them on the Capitol steps. We're going to try and identify all of those that have been in the Capitol, in the Longworth Building, and specifically in our office, and contact them directly.



QUESTION: Maybe the congressman can clarify. The congressman's statement says that the type of anthrax that was found was of the potent form found in Daschle's office. But you say it's sensitive enough to respond to doxycycline. Does potency mean the size of the spores or how strong the...

MARTIN: We know nothing about the size of the spores in these new offices, and I really can't comment on that. I'm going by what we have found in all of the incidents here in the Washington area. The sensitivity profile of the bug has been very sensitive to all of the typical antibiotics that can be used for naturally occurring anthrax. So we feel quite confident in the medications that we have that we will see no cases of anthrax out of the congressman's office.

QUESTION: Given what we've learned from the lessons of Brentwood, does finding anthrax in this office mean that we need to expand the treatment trail at all? How has the treatment trail changed?

MARTIN: You know, I'm going to let Lieutenant Nichols talk about that, because I'm a clinician; I'm not the environmental guy.

NICHOLS: Dr. Eisold, last night, decided to open the Rayburn House Office Building medical unit today for people who work in the Longworth House Office Building. Anyone who works on the sixth and seventh floor encouraged to come in today for evaluation by the medical team up here.

QUESTION: Can you tell me if the entire Longworth has been swept or only the top floors so far?

NICHOLS: We're doing extensive environmental testing in the Longworth.

QUESTION: I understand. Are you starting the top floors (ph), down?

NICHOLS: There is a methodology that's being followed by the environmental experts. But, you know, I have to be careful. This is an ongoing criminal investigation as well as environmental investigation, so specific information on how this is being conducted is not something that I'm willing to put out in the public domain for a number of reasons.

QUESTION: Could there be another press conference tonight with other announcements?

NICHOLS: Of course. If there is another announcement to be made about any other samples found positive in the Longworth House Office Building, I will put that information out, just like I have incrementally over the time.

(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... yesterday, any more positive cases of contamination?

NICHOLS: I'm just now arriving at work. I haven't had a briefing this morning yet, so I don't have any further information to impart at this time.

QUESTION: Where were the traces of anthrax found in the congressman's office?

NICHOLS: Again, we haven't given specific locations because this is an ongoing investigation. What we have done is give the locations where it's been found, the office areas. But the specific areas within the offices is information we're going to hold confidential.

QUESTION: Do you know if it was from the mail?

NICHOLS: Excuse me?

QUESTION: Do we know if it came through the mail?

NICHOLS: Well, of course, that's what we're following. And that's part of the investigative process.


NICHOLS: Well, that's part of the investigative process. You know, we know that it came through the mail for Senator Daschle. What the environmental experts and criminal experts are doing is backtracking from there, finding a logical path of this mail, of this bacteria also.

But there are other factors we're taking into consideration when they come up their decision to do environmental sampling within the buildings.

QUESTION: So I guess the question would be you, don't have any indication that it came to these offices through a ventilation system as opposed to some other kind of...

NICHOLS: That's what we're exploring. And what we don't know is -- and I've said at the outset of this investigation that this is a situation where we have cross-contamination from the original Senator Daschle letter, or if there is another piece of mail out there that we need to be concerned about. That's something that we are looking into very vigorously, I can assure you.

SAVIDGE: That was Lieutenant Dan Nichols of the U.S. Capitol Police Department talking about the discovery of additional contamination by anthrax in another congressional office building, that being the Longworth Office Building.

That news conference began with Representative Mike Pence of Indiana. His office, along with two others, is where the apparently low levels of anthrax were discovered inside of that building. He said that his staff is well, that there are no signs of infection amongst the staff members, and that all of them will soon begin taking antibiotics.

He said to those that may have carried out this attack: "You have failed again, failed to reach the target, and you have only further steeled the resolve of government." He also thanked the leadership of the House for closing down the House a day early.

And then we heard from Commander Greg Martin of the Bethesda Naval Medical Center, who said that these are low levels of anthrax that were detected, not like that that was found in Senator Daschle's office. And he says that there is no cases of anthrax likely as a result of this discovery. So, there you have the latest information regarding that.




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