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White House Forced To Admit ‘Inconsistency’ Over Transcripts

By ThinkProgress  

"White House Forced To Admit ‘Inconsistency’ Over Transcripts"

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White House spokeswoman Dana Perino was forced to admit the “inconsistency” of the White House position on transcripts during today’s press briefing. CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux said, “No one has really missed the irony of what is happening here at the White House.”

During the briefing, Perino again defended the notion that Karl Rove and other top aides should be able to talk to Congress without a written transcript, calling the White House offer “quite generous and extraordinarily open.” But moments later, when asked about new documents showing Alberto Gonzales approved the U.S. Attorney firings, Perino pointed to transcripts of Gonzales’ remarks on CNN that she claimed exonerated Gonzales.

A reporter pointed out that Perino’s defense of Gonzales “illustrate[s] perfectly why a transcript is necessary.” Perino responded, “I see your point,” sparking laughter from reporters. “I understand that some people would think that that is not a good idea, and I understand the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript.” Watch it:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/cnnperino.302.240.flv]

UPDATE: Here’s the full exchange from the briefing:

[flv http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/03/perinobriefingtranscript.320.240.flv]

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Transcript:

MALVEAUX: I have to say it’s very interesting here because the White House is essentially saying Alberto Gonzales, the attorney general, is telling the truth, and that his statements are not inconsistent. But what they are saying today is just look at the transcripts. Yeah, we’re talking about transcripts here.

We heard from Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman, who said look, even if there was a meeting that took place with Gonzales’s aides over the firings of these U.S. Attorneys, she says the statements are consistent that he made at a press conference on March 13 and public statements he made to CNN the following day. And she points to the transcripts here.

Now all of this quite ironic as you know, Wolf. Because while the Justice Department is allowing Alberto Gonzales to go before cameras, will provide a transcript of his testimony, the White House has refused to allow top officials to have these interviews on the record with these transcripts, something that Democrats and Republicans say is key to proving that these are not inconsistent statements that are being made. And no one has really missed the irony of what is happening here at the White House, including Dana Perino.

[PERINO VIDEO]: I understand the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript of March 14. However, these meetings are not hearings. They are not interrogations.

White House press briefing transcript:

Q A couple things. Just for the record, are the people who are not negotiating with Congress aware that it is unprecedented for somebody like Karl Rove, or somebody who’s giving even an interview, to have no transcript kept of their closed-door interview, except in national security instances?

MS. PERINO: I don’t know all the issues of precedent that go all the way back. I do know that people have meetings all the time and they have discussions all the time, and there aren’t transcripts produced all the time. But this isn’t –

Q Not according to the committee –

MS. PERINO: Let me finish, Jessica, which is that the White House — the Congress does not have oversight over the White House. We are not — this is not a hearing, this is not an interrogation –

Q What do you mean, don’t have oversight?

Q But there is checks and balances, and that’s the way the system has worked –

MS. PERINO: There are checks and balances, but we could have said, we’re not going to talk to you at all. But that’s not what we did.

Q But that’s a form of — you don’t see this as a form of confrontation, refusing to follow practice?

MS. PERINO: No, the way I see it is that it is a form of accommodation.

Q And so the White House is being accommodating by saying, we won’t negotiate, take our offer or leave it?

MS. PERINO: We are being accommodating because we could have said, we’re not going to talk to you at all, and instead we’ve been quite generous and extraordinarily open about what we’re willing to provide. [...]

Q Dana, can I just follow one more time on this notion of transcript? Doesn’t the events of last Friday illustrate perfectly why a transcript is necessary? In other words, you have more documents that come out Friday. You have the Attorney General saying something that appears inconsistent. And then you say, ah, but look at the transcript of CNN on the –

MS. PERINO: I see your point. (Laughter.) I see your point, Jim, and I understand that people would think –

Q — it’s a serious question, that you’re referring to something that there’s no dispute about what was said, because there’s a transcript.

MS. PERINO: Jim, I see your point, but — however, the decision that we have made is to allow for interviews that would be on the record, where people could take notes. And I understand that some people would think that that is not a good idea, and I understand the inconsistency of my own statement of referring back to a transcript of March 14th. However, these meetings are not hearings, they are not interrogations, they are not under the Kleig lights. They are meetings in which members say they want to get to the bottom of the facts. And if they really want to, they have that opportunity available to them –

Q But if Harriet Miers –

MS. PERINO: — and there are other opportunities for members of Congress to get different data points of information in order to pull the full story together.

Q But if Harriet Miers and Karl Rove have recollections of answers to questions that don’t exactly match, and we’re trying to “get to the truth” –

MS. PERINO: Nothing would prevent them from following up.

Q But follow up how? With notes, or with what each one actually said?

MS. PERINO: With follow-up questions.

Q Yes, based on what? What each one actually told investigators, or what the best notes reflect of what they told them?

MS. PERINO: Jim, we’re not going to have a transcript.

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