"I've been led to believe that there's a good response for it"

Tony Snow says all the facts will come out on the prosecutor purge.

Published March 21, 2007 7:27PM (EDT)

Why is the White House insisting that there be no transcripts of any "interviews" members of Congress might have with Karl Rove and Harriet Miers? Maybe it's because of transcripts like this one from today's White House press briefing:

Tony Snow: What we're doing is we're trying to be accommodating to Congress by offering them extraordinary insight into a deliberative process. You also know that everybody who goes there -- the president expects everybody who talks to Congress to tell the truth, and so does the law. And they know that it would be illegal not to tell them the truth. So the question you've got to ask yourself is -- this pressure on transcripts and everything -- is this really something where somebody thinks that there's going to be a fact that they're not going to receive? The answer's no. The question is whether you're trying to create a political spectacle, rather than simply the basis of getting at the truth. This, I think, is an important and crucial distinction, because, again, I'm not sure -- well, I think we can say with confidence that they're going to get every fact they need to find out what's going on.

Reporter: Are you afraid that they'll be able to go through and find inconsistencies in testimony, if there's a transcript?

Snow: No, they'll be able to do it.

Reporter: OK. You keep saying the Justice Department -- their response, in these e-mails, the 3,000 pages, was unprecedented, was very responsive. Why then is there this gap from mid-November to about Dec. 4, right before the actual firings? Why is there a gap in e-mails?

Snow: I don't know. Why don't you ask them?

Reporter: Well, you're the White House. The Justice Department serves under you.

Snow: I know, but I'm not going to be the fact witness on Justice.

Reporter: But you're the one representing that this has been very responsive. Now that there's a gap, you say go to the...

Snow: And I've been led to believe that there's a good response for it, but I'm going to let you ask them because they're going to have the answer.

Reporter: There's one e-mail from November 15 that says -- from Mr. Sampson to Harriet Miers, I believe -- "Who will determine whether this requires the president's attention?"

Snow: Right.

Reporter: And then there's a gap in e-mails. Was there any -- do you think, perhaps, any e-mails about the president in there? And did the president have to sign off on this? Because the question was raised...

Snow: The president has no recollection of this ever being raised with him.

Reporter: Have you read the e-mails or been briefed on them?

Snow: I've been briefed. I have not read all 3,000 pages.

Reporter: How would a transcript make it a political spectacle? And what about a transcript would be not in keeping with amicable and...

Snow: Well, again, I think you've always got a temptation -- somebody, sort of, waving a piece of paper. Let me ask you -- let me reverse the question. Why would not an interview conducive to getting at the facts?

Reporter: Well, because if, then, the facts were then discussed, then it would be one person's word against the other.

Snow: No, I don't think so. I mean, I think, if somebody asks a straight factual question, you're going to have witnesses from both parties and from both chambers, House and Senate. You're going to have Democrats and Republicans, House and Senate. You're going to have people there who are responsive. And you know what? If they don't think they've got it right, they can ask over and over and over, until they get it precisely right. So I don't think that's a real concern.

Reporter: What about a record of these facts?

Snow: Well, again, the facts -- my guess is that there will be -- that people are certainly going to be open to discussing the facts that they hear.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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