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Ari Fleischer Holds Daily Press Briefing

Aired May 14, 2002 - 12:47   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We want get you to the White House -- Ari Fleischer briefing with reporters. And we do anticipate a wide range of topics, as always.

Ari Fleischer now in the Briefing Room.


QUESTION: ... it was the work of a federal employee who took the picture of the president on Air Force One.


QUESTION: It was a work of a federal employee who took the picture of the president on Air Force One?

FLEISCHER: The picture taken on Air Force Once was taken by the White House photographer, and that is standardly done, was released free of charge, as always, to the media. What the media does with these pictures after they are released by the White House is the media's business between the media and the commercial vendor, not the White House's business.

QUESTION: Back to what congressional Republicans are doing, was it -- the president has no problem with what the Democrats are portraying as blood money here?

FLEISCHER: Blood money? And how is that blood money?

QUESTION: That's how they're portraying it, using the tragedy of September 11 as a fundraising tool.

FLEISCHER: I'm hard pressed to see how that characterization can be anything even close to resembling anything accurate or fair.

HEMMER: All right, that was quick at the White House.


FLEISCHER: Yes, I'd refer you to the agencies. They'll have to explain...

QUESTION: On the trade, Evans says that he's going -- if Craig's (ph) amendment passes, that he'll recommend the president veto it. Is the president (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to veto the bill?

FLEISCHER: We have a number of concerns about an amendment that is on the floor of the United States Senate, potentially to come to the floor of the United States Senate by the senator, and he has a cosponsor on that as well, and there is a veto threat out because it would seriously undermine the cause and the purpose of free trade. So that's a very sincere message to the Senate to help protect free trade and to defeat that amendment.

QUESTION: So the president would veto it if Craig's (ph) amendment passes?

FLEISCHER: He has a recommendation from his advisers to veto. I have not heard it from the president himself directly. But the president understands the concerns made by his Cabinet members. It's a serious concern, and that's why they have recommended a veto to the president. It is a serious problem.

QUESTION: One of the things Mr. Carter is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Cuba with, one of the purposes of his asking for the briefings with high government officials, including White House officials, was to share with him any concerns that the U.S. government could have had about possible terrorist activity that was supported by Cuba. And he said there were absolutely no such allegations made (UNINTELLIGIBLE). In other words, no one asked any questions about anything they were worried about Cuba.

FLEISCHER: I cannot in all -- possibilities and anticipate every question that former President Carter raised or brought up himself in the course of briefings. I can't answer for you who it was who President Carter asked to be briefed by, and whether they had knowledge of every program and every concern the government has.

Many of these types of briefings depend on who the people are who President Carter asked to be briefed by. There is an abundance of information. Whether each and every topic of information that was known was discussed in the course of a briefing is impossible for me to say. I can't tell you about the meeting, the conversation that he had with Dr. Rice.

QUESTION: Was Dr. Rice there...

FLEISCHER: Dr. Rice talked to former President Carter. She does, and people throughout the government do, when former presidents undertake visits to foreign countries, it's not uncommon for them to talk to Dr. Rice or other government officials.

That conversation was a very brief conversation on May 9, in the morning of May 9, if I recall. And they talked generally about Cuba. This question of bioweaponry was not raised by President Carter or brought up by Dr. Rice.

QUESTION: If you could just (UNINTELLIGIBLE) what President Bush would like ex-President Carter to do in Cuba. So far, he's met with two of the most distinguished or known dissidents on the island. I think he's speaking today -- I don't know if he's spoken yet -- to the Cuban people on live television (UNINTELLIGIBLE) University of Havana. Does the president consider that so far, what Mr. Carter has done in Cuba fits what he would like him to do?

FLEISCHER: Well, that's what I indicated. The president believes that President Carter has been a champion of human rights around the world. And President Carter will be in Cuba for a number of days. And the president wishes President Carter every bit of success in helping to convince President Castro to change his regime, to change his tyrannical system, to bring freedom, and to end the repression of the Cuban people.

QUESTION: Back to the photos for a minute. Is the president aware that these pictures are being sold?

QUESTION: And is the president aware that there's some criticism floating out there about the sale of these photos?

FLEISCHER: No. The president is aware of it.

QUESTION: Of both?

FLEISCHER: That's correct.


FLEISCHER: I've shared it with you. And I speak for the president.

QUESTION: Could you repeat for me what the president's reaction to the idea of...

FLEISCHER: The president's reaction is that the party committees have made these three photos of him doing his job for the American people, available.

QUESTION: And you and he have had an opportunity to object, and you're obviously not objecting to this...

FLEISCHER: That's what I indicated. The party committees made the decision, the White House did not object.

QUESTION: Ari, different topic. Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah said in the Saudi press, he was very impressed with his time with President Bush. However, he was concerned that he felt that the president was not very informed about the situation in the Middle East, particularly relating to the Palestinians. Do you buy those remarks, and is that something that...

FLEISCHER: The president had a very productive meeting with the Crown Prince, and they each shared a lot of information with each other. And I think as a result of the meeting, they both feel better informed about the views of each other.

QUESTION: What about specifically the charge that he felt that the president showed up for that session uninformed about many issues?

FLEISCHER: I think I've addressed that.

QUESTION: Ari, (OFF-MIKE) the White House photo with the president on Air Force One, was that taken by Eric Draper? Is he the photographer?

FLEISCHER: I couldn't tell you exactly which White House photographer it was. I think it may have been Mr. Draper.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) only one released that day of that actual scene of the president talking to...

FLEISCHER: I don't know how many photos the White House released on September 11. I'm surprised it was the only one, but...

QUESTION: But there's one of Bush talking to Cheney on Air Force One that you released to the general press, the Times ran it. Is that the one you're talking about?

FLEISCHER: I haven't seen the picture myself, so I couldn't tell you. I just know the photo was released to the press. And I can't speak to how or why the press then provided it to commercial vendors, and whether the press is paid by the commercial vendor for their release of the picture. But then it was purchased from the commercial vendor by the party committees.

QUESTION: Can I ask another question? So if you guys said you gave approval in general for these pictures, the congressional committees using these pictures for fund-raising, if you had known that one of them was going to be the Air Force One picture, would you have given your approval?

FLEISCHER: That's a hypothetical. I can't answer a question about an event that didn't take place.

QUESTION: I mean, it's causing a lot of trouble. If the president had known, if Karl Rove had known, do you think you would have said yes?

FLEISCHER: I can't answer a question about an event that didn't take place.

QUESTION: Can I try one more on this? You said that these are pictures of the president doing his job for the American people.

QUESTION: On 9/11, that job was one of the moments where he's acting not as a Republican or the leader of his party, but as the commander-in-chief at a moment when he's the focus of the hopes and fears of the country. Why isn't he concerned that now selling this photograph to raise money for Republicans could undermine something that he frequently says, which is it's a war and its prosecution and the commitment to it should be above and beyond partisan ties? Why isn't he concerned that deploying this photograph for (UNINTELLIGIBLE) undermines that?

FLEISCHER: Every day that the president does his job for the American people is a day that the president tries to bring the nation together. That doesn't stop, in the president's opinion, the rights of the American people if they so choose to participate in their democracy through the party committees.

The same question could be asked of the State of the Union. The same question could be asked of any picture ever taken by (sic) the president of the United States in the course of doing his duties.

What the Democrats are really say is once somebody's elected president, they should never be allowed to have any pictures taken of them for any purpose at any time in the course of their administration for the purposes of helping to build a Republican party, or in the case of the Democrats, a Democratic party.

Every day the president is doing his job for the American people in a variety of settings in a variety of ways. And it's the right of people to participate in our democratic system through their political parties as they see fit to support the president.

QUESTION: Isn't the war a special case, though, as he himself reminds the country, very frequently...

FLEISCHER: It doesn't matter. Any picture taken of the president in that context is a reminder of how this president has brought the nation together, Democrats and Republicans alike.

QUESTION: But to be clear -- hold on, Ari, let me follow up on that.

FLEISCHER: We're going to keep going like we are here.

QUESTION: And go over the ones you don't like...

FLEISCHER: I'm taking all the ones I don't want to take.


You just want to ask them all.




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