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Bush Press Briefing

Aired April 29, 2004 - 13:16   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to go to the president of the United States.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The vice president and I just finished a good conversation with the 9/11 commission. It was wide-ranging, it was important, it was just a good discussion. And I really -- I appreciated the members.

I want to thank the chairman and vice chairman for bringing the commission here and giving us a chance to share views on different subjects. And they had a lot of good questions, and it was -- I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I took the time.

This is an important commission, and it's important that they ask the questions they asked so that they can help make recommendations necessary to better protect our homeland. And -- but it was -- I enjoyed it.

Let me answer a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Mr. President, what topic did the commissioners want to spend most of the time on? And were there any subjects that you didn't answer or were advised by your counsel not to answer?

BUSH: No. I was never advised by my counsel not to answer anything. I answered every question they asked.

BUSH: Probably best that I not go into the details of the conversation and let them incorporate it into their report.

There was a lot of interest about how to better protect America. In other words, they're very interested in the recommendations that they're going to lay out and I'm interested in those as well.

And we discussed a lot of things, a lot of subjects. And it was a very cordial conversation. I was impressed by the questions. I think it helped them understand how I think and how I run the White House and how we deal with threats.

QUESTION: Mr. President, as you know, a lot of critics suggested that you wanted to appear jointly with the vice president so that you two could keep your stories straight or something. Could you tell us what you think of the value of appearing together and how you would answer those critics?

BUSH: First of all, look, if we had something to hide, we wouldn't have met with them in the first place. We answered all their questions.

As I say, I came away good about the session, because I wanted them to know, you know, how I set strategy, how we run the White House, how we deal with threats.

The vice president answered a lot of their questions -- answered all their questions.

BUSH: And I think it was important for them to see our body language as well, how we work together.

But it was -- you know, the commissioners will speak for themselves over time. They will let you know whether they thought it was a fruitful series of discussions. I think they did. I think they found it to be useful.

QUESTION: Mr. President...

BUSH: Yes.

QUESTION: ... don't you think that the families deserved to have a transcript or to be able to see...

BUSH: You asked me that question yesterday. I got the same answer.

QUESTION: Can you say with any confidence there are no al Qaeda operatives active in the country today?

BUSH: No, I can't say that.

QUESTION: Did the commission ask you about that?

BUSH: No, they didn't. But I'm not going to get into any more details about what they asked me. I told you I wasn't going to give any details about what they asked me and then I fell into your trap.

Let me talk about vulnerabilities, then I've got to get back to work. We are still vulnerable to attack.

And the reason why is al Qaeda still exists, al Qaeda's dangerous, al Qaeda hates us, and we have to be correct 100 percent of the time in defending America and they've got to be right once. And therefore we are vulnerable.

But people need to know we're working -- we, the government -- at all levels are working long hours to protect America. We're doing the best we can.

The best way to secure America, however, is to stay on the offensive and bring those people to justice before they harm America again. And that's what we're continuing to do.

But, you know, so long as they're an al Qaeda enemy that is willing to kill, we are vulnerable.

Thank you, all.

O'BRIEN: The president of the United States in the Rose Garden of the White House, saying, if we had something to hide, we would not have met with them in the first place, and offering a brief recap in very general terms as to what happened during this extraordinary meeting as the 9/11 commissioners came to the Oval Office today to interview the president and the vice president.


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