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Bush, reporters spar over comments on Supreme Court ruling on Gitmo trials

RAW STORY
Published: Thursday June 29, 2006

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President Bush sparred with reporters today who wanted him to discuss the Supreme Court ruling that he had exceeded his presidential authority with the Guantanamo tribunals.

When first asked if he planned to close down the prison quickly, President Bush noted that he had only had a "drive-by" briefing on the ruling.

"Yeah, I -- thank you for the question on a court ruling that literally came out in the midst of my meeting with the prime minister, and so I haven't had a chance to fully review the findings of the Supreme Court," said Bush.

"The American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street," Bush said. "In other words, there's not a -- as I -- as I was -- a drive-by briefing on the way here, I was told that this was not going to be the case."

When asked about the ruling by another reporter, Bush again said that he hadn't had the time to "fully review" it.

"Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said," said Bush. "I -- I wish I had; I -- I could have given you a better answer. As I say, we take this -- the findings seriously."

But the president alluded to a way to continue to move "forward" with Congress despite the Court's ruling.

"And again, I -- as I understand it -- now, don't -- please don't hold me to this -- that there is a way forward with military tribunals and working with the United States Congress," Bush said. "As I understand, certain senators have already been out, expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress."

When another reporter raised the ruling, Bush cut him off.

"Well, I just gave you the answer on that," Bush said. "I'll be glad to answer another question. I gave you the broad strokes that I've been given."

When asked a final time about the ruling, President Bush told the reporter that he was "sorry" that he wasted his question, but then for the first time said that he would "conform to the Supreme Court."

"Obviously, I'm a person who, you know, generally comments on things," said Bush. "I haven't been briefed enough to make a comment on it except for the following thing -- I'm sorry you had to waste your question, but -- we will conform to the Supreme Court."

Excerpts from the press conference:

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PRESIDENT BUSH: We've agreed to take two questions a side.

Walking in, I reminded the prime minister of one of Elvis's greatest songs, "Don't Be Cruel." (Laughter.) So keep that in mind, huh, when you ask a question.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You've said that you wanted to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, but you were waiting for the Supreme Court decision that came out today. Do you intend now to close the Guantanamo Bay quickly? And how do deal with the suspects that you said were too dangerous to be released or sent home?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yeah, I -- thank you for the question on a court ruling that literally came out in the midst of my meeting with the prime minister, and so I haven't had a chance to fully review the findings of the Supreme Court.

I -- one, I assure you that we take them very seriously. Two, that, to the extent that there is latitude to work with the Congress to determine whether or not the military tribunals will be an avenue in which to give people their day in court, we will do so.

The American people need to know that this ruling, as I understand it, won't cause killers to be put out on the street. In other words, there's not a -- as I -- as I was -- a drive-by briefing on the way here, I was told that this was not going to be the case. Anyway, we will seriously look at the findings, obviously.

And one thing I'm not going to do, though, is I'm not going to jeopardize the safety of the American people. People have got to understand that. I understand we're in a war on terror, that these people were picked up off of a battlefield, and I will -- I -- I will protect the people, and at the same time conform with the findings of the Supreme Court.

Q Do you think the prison will close?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I haven't had a chance to fully review what the court said. I -- I wish I had; I -- I could have given you a better answer. As I say, we take this -- the findings seriously. And again, I -- as I understand it -- now, don't -- please don't hold me to this -- that there is a way forward with military tribunals and working with the United States Congress. As I understand, certain senators have already been out, expressing their desire to address what the Supreme Court found, and we will work with the Congress.

I want to find a way forward. In other words, I have told the people that I would like for there to be a way to return people from Guantanamo to their home countries, but some of 'em -- people need to be tried in our courts. And that's -- the Hamdan decision was the way forward for that part of my statement.

And again, I would like to review the case, and we are. We got people looking at it right now to determine how we can work with Congress, if that's available, to solve the problem.

.......

Q Yes, Mr. President. We can assume you've been at least been given some of the broad strokes of the Supreme Court's decision on Guantanamo --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I just gave you the answer on that. I'll be glad to answer another question. I gave you the broad strokes that I've been given.

Q Right. But this -- can you comment on what looks like a judicial repudiation of your administration's policy on the treatment of terror suspects post-9/11?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Matt, I -- I can't -- I wish I could comment on it. I would. Obviously, I'm a person who, you know, generally comments on things. I haven't been briefed enough to make a comment on it except for the following thing -- I'm sorry you had to waste your question, but -- we will conform to the Supreme Court. We will analyze the decision. To the extent that the Congress is given any latitude to develop a way forward using military tribunals, we will work with them.

As I understand, a senator has already been on TV. I haven't seen it, hadn't heard what he said.

But they briefed me and said he wants to devise law in conformity with the case that would enable us to use a military tribunal to hold these people to account. And if that's the case, we'll work with him. But, you know, that's -- I cannot comment any more than I have just done in the first question, otherwise I would have. I just haven't been fully briefed enough to answer your question, Matt.

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Correction: An earlier version of this piece used a transcript that claimed President Bush said "quote" instead of "court" in referring to the ruling. This significantly changes the meaning of the President's statement. RAW STORY apologizes for any confusion this may have caused and will take action to prevent this kind of error in the future.


 

 
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