My recording started just into the statement so I didn’t get the first few words.
…my staff and Congressional leaders about the resignations of U.S. Attorneys. As you know, I have broad discretion to replace political appointees throughout the government, including U.S. Attorneys. And in this case, I appointed these U.S. Attorneys. And they serve four year terms.
The Justice Department, with the approval of the White House, believed new leadership in these positions would better serve our country. The announcement of this decision and the subsequent explanation of these changes has been confusing and in some cases, incomplete. Neither the Attorney General, nor I, approve of how these explanations were handled or determined to correct the problem.
Today I am also announcing the following steps my administration is taking to correct the record and demonstrate our willingness to work with the Congress. First, the Attorney General and key staff will testify before the relevant Congressional committees to explain how the decision was made and for what reasons. Second, we’re giving Congress access to an unprecedented variety of information about the process used to make the decision about replacing eight of the ninety-three U.S. Attorneys.
In the last twenty-four hours the Justice Department has provided the Congress more than three thousand pages of internal Justice Department documents including those reflecting direct communications with White House staff. This, in itself, is an extraordinary level of disclosure of an internal agency and White House communications.
Third, I recognize that there is significant interest in the role the White House played in the resignations of these U.S. Attorneys. Access to White House staff is always a sensitive issue. The President relies upon his staff to provide him candid advice. The Framers of the Constitution understood this vital role when developing the separate branches of government. If the staff of the President operated in constant fear of being hauled before various committees to discuss internal deliberations, the President would not receive candid advice. And the American people would be ill served. Yet in this case I recognize the importance of Congress having – The importance of Congress have placed in understanding how and why this decision was made. So I’ll allow relevant committee members on a bipartisan basis to interview key members of my staff to ascertain relevant facts.
In addition to this offer, we will also release all White House documents and emails involving direct communications with the Justice Department, or any other outside person, including Members of Congress and their staff related to this issue. These extraordinary steps offered today to the majority in Congress demonstrate a reasonable solution to the issue. However we will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants.
Initial response by Democrats, unfortunately, shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available. I have proposed a reasonable way to avoid an impasse. I hope they don’t choose confrontation. I will oppose any attempts to subpoena White House officials.
As we cut through all the partisan rhetoric it is important to maintain perspective on a couple of important points. First, it was natural and appropriate for members of the White House staff to consider – and to discuss with the Justice Department – whether to replace all ninety-three U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of my second term. The start of the second term is a natural time to discuss the status of political appointees within the White House and with relevant agencies, including the Justice Department. In this case, the idea was rejected and it was not pursued.
Second, it is common for me, and members of my staff and the Justice Department to receive complaints from members of the Congress in both parties and from other citizens. And we did hear complaints and concerns about U.S. Attorneys. Some complained about the lack of vigorous prosecution of election fraud cases, while others had concerns about immigration cases not being prosecuted. These concerns are often shared between the White House and the Justice Department and that is completely appropriate.
I also want to say something to the U.S. Attorneys who resigned. I appreciate your service to the country. And while I strongly support the Attorney General’s decision, and am confident he acted appropriately, I regret that these resignations turned into such a public spectacle. It is now my hope that the United States Congress will act appropriately. My administration has made a very reasonable proposal. It’s not too late for Democrats to drop the partisanship and work together. Democrats now have to choose whether they will waste time and provoke an unnecessary confrontation or whether they will join us in working to do the people’s business. There are too many important issues, from funding our troops to comprehensive immigration reform to balancing the budget for us to accomplish on behalf of the American people. Thank you for your time.