Press Conference by the PresidentMarch 13, 2002
Excerpts on Executive Branch Prerogatives
Q: Mr. President, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has asked Governor Ridge to testify about the administration's domestic homeland security efforts. Why has the White House said that Governor Ridge will not testify?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, he's not -- he doesn't have to testify; he's a part of my staff, and that's part of the prerogative of the Executive Branch of government. And we hold that very dear.
Q: Mr. President, that's another area, along with the war and the development of the energy policy --
THE PRESIDENT: This wasn't a trick question, Mike -- get me to say that and then kind of have a quick follow-up? But go ahead.
Q: No, sir. But that's an area where Congress has said members of both parties have told us they're not getting enough information from the White House.
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, Mike, Mike, we consult with Congress all the time. I've had meaningful breakfasts with the leadership in the House and the Senate. I break bread with both Republicans and Democrats right back here in the Oval Office, and have a good, honest discussion about plans, objectives, what's taking place, what's not taking place. We have members of our Cabinet briefing. Condoleezza Rice is in touch with the members of the Congress. We are in touch with -- we understand the role of the Congress. We must justify budgets to Congress. And so I don't buy that, to be frank with you.
Q: Mr. President, given --
THE PRESIDENT: Mike, this is the third. Two follow-ups is a record. Keep trying.
Q: Given that you've not convinced everyone in your own party of that, to what degree are you trying to recalibrate the power between Congress and the presidency?
THE PRESIDENT: Mike, I'm just doing my job. We'll let all the kind of legal historians figure all that out, you know.
First of all, I'm not going to let Congress erode the power of the Executive Branch. I have a duty to protect the Executive Branch from legislative encroachment. I mean, for example, when the GAO demands documents from us, we're not going to give them to them. These were privileged conversations. These were conversations when people come into our offices and brief us. Can you imagine having to give up every single transcript of what is -- advised me or the Vice President? Our advice wouldn't be good and honest and open.
And so I viewed that as an encroachment on the power of the Executive Branch. I have an obligation to make sure that the presidency remains robust and the Legislative Branch doesn't end up running the Executive Branch. On the other hand, there's plenty of consultation, Mike. I don't know what single Republican you're referring to. But if you'd give me the name afterwards, I'll be glad to have him over for another consultation, if you know what I mean. (Laughter.)